How to Stick to Your Financial Plan in 2020

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Most of us have good intentions when it comes to saving. You budget, you have a financial planner and you invest, but you can always save more, and stick a little closer to the plan you’ve created. “Saving isn’t always easy,” says Jason Heath, a Toronto-based financial planner. “Even for me.” Fortunately, Heath has some ideas on how you can keep your finances on track in 2020.


One place to start is to automate savings, says Heath. Most financial plans will have spending and savings targets, but rather than waiting for the end of the month to see if you have the right amount left over to save, set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account and put those dollars away as soon as you can. Then use the remaining amount to cover your expenses and other costs. “If savings is automatic then you can spend on everything else guilt free,” he says. “But you need to try and hit those savings target every month.”


It also a good idea to have an emergency fund, which can help you pay for unplanned costs, while still allowing you to stick to your plan. For instance, if your car breaks down, or your roof needs a repair, you’ll already have the money to cover those expenses and won’t have to dip into your monthly savings. Life, disability and critical illness insurance are important for the same reason. “These sorts of things can ensure against a budget going off track,” says Heath. “You’ll be able to sleep better at night.”


Another way to stay on top of spending and saving is to utilize financial planning apps. Most let you create budgets in various spending categories, such as groceries, entertainment and vacations. When you get close to exceeding that budget, you’ll receive an alert warning you that you’re nearing your limit. Some programs will also show you how much you have in your investment and savings accounts, which will help you make sure that you’re savings targets are being met.


Financial planning is about keeping long-term goals at the top of your mind, so be careful about obsessing over short-term issues, says Heath. If you have to save a little less for one month, then that’s OK, as long as you’re diligent about saving a little more next month. This is especially important to remember with your investments. Stocks go up and down, so stay the course. “Remember that this is all part of the cycle and your stocks are unlikely to be lower five years from now,” he says. “Stick to that long-term approach.”


Those with a plan should review it twice a year – at the start of the year and then again in six months – says Heath. Any more than that and you’ll take the fun out of financial planning. Sit down with an advisor, or look at the plan yourself, and make sure you’re hitting your savings targets. If you have been keeping to your plan, then those reviews should only last a few minutes. “If money is going off the top to meet your savings goals then reviewing a couple of times a year is enough,” says Heath. “You’ll know if you’re off track if you have to dip into a line of credit or have trouble paying off your credit card.”

In general, sticking to a financial plan takes some effort, but it’s not as onerous as many think, says Heath. Review your plan, save before you spend, keep your goals top of mind and you’ll become an even better saver in 2020.

Updated December, 2019

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