By Angela McClain, Personal Financial Advisor at GuideStone
2020 has been a wild ride. And as we’ve talked about volatile financial markets, social distancing and the election cycle, “living through unprecedented times” has been crowned the cliché catchphrase of the year. Although with varying degrees of loss, COVID-19 left no one unaffected.
But we made it work.
Pastors preached to parking lot congregations, and many streamed church services to their flock. Teachers transformed into Zoom consultants, and parents assumed the homeschooling gig. Birthdays and weddings turned virtual with car parade receiving lines.
And more than ever, we have been reminded of our gratitude for essential workers and medical professionals.
While we have come together in extraordinary ways, getting back to “normal” is something we all hope happens sooner rather than later. So let’s start today!
Here are 7 “normal” year-end financial moves to set you up for a great 2021.
1. Review last year’s financial goals.
Did you save as much as you had hoped? Did you stick to a budget? How much debt did you pay off? Reviewing your goals from the previous year helps you evaluate your current situation. Remember to give yourself some grace, as 2020 has been financially rocky for most people, so it’s okay if you didn’t do everything you planned last January.
2. Set new — specific — goals.
Save more, stick to a budget and pay down debt are all worthy goals, but have you written down measurable targets? For example, save $100 more, stick to a cash envelope budget and pay down school loan debt by 2026. Make your goals specific to your situation and hold yourself accountable.
3. Maximize your retirement savings.
Whether you’re using an employer-sponsored plan such as a 403(b)(9) Church Retirement Plan, Traditional or Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or an investment account, commit to increasing your contributions annually by a percentage of income instead of a dollar amount.
If you’re already a GuideStone® participant, we encourage you to increase your contribution amount today.
4. Set aside funds in an emergency account.
As we know from this year, uncertain financial situations can appear at any time. Open an emergency account and make sure it is fully funded. GuideStone would recommend working toward a balance of three to eight months of living expenses — just in case.
5. Evaluate your insurance policies and premiums.
When was the last time you assessed your monthly line item for insurance payments? For example, premiums may be right on target for one type of coverage, but how much are you overfunded (or underfunded) for home insurance? Car insurance? Take the time to minimize these monthly costs in your budget.
And here’s another quick insurance tip — if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), make sure to use any remaining FSA money, as it expires after one calendar year.
6. Find out if you qualify for tax credits.
Reviewing these ahead of time will allow you to be ready when it comes time to file your 2021 tax return. Evaluate if you’re eligible for tax credits such as the:
7. Ask your church to designate a housing allowance for the upcoming year if you’re an ordained minister.
The housing allowance designation must always be for future housing expenses. A good practice is for the church to request an estimate of housing expenses from the minister at the end of the tax year, have the appropriate committee or ministry team evaluate the request as reasonable and then have the committee or church approve the housing allowance request for the following tax year.
Even though this year has been challenging, we know you still strive to honor the Lord with your finances in the same way you serve Him with your lives. That’s why GuideStone remains committed to helping you be a good steward of your resources — no matter the circumstances.
We made it through 2020 together. And we’ll be there for you in 2021, too.
Happy New Year to you and yours from your friends at GuideStone!
GuideStone is a leading provider of employee benefits for SBC churches, ministries, organizations and institutions. Visit GuideStone.org to learn more about how they can help you with retirement, insurance, investments and more.
Angela McClain joined GuideStone in 2006 and is both a Personal Financial Advisor and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, specializing in topics such as money management, retirement planning and financial stewardship — providing specific guidance to women and millennials. During her time at GuideStone, she has supported executive leaders, ministers and a variety of other professionals to build investment and planning strategies.
Angela holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and a Master of Business Administration in management — both from Dallas Baptist University. She and her husband, Shaun, have two daughters, Jade and Piper. They love to travel as a family, serve in their local church as life group leaders and teach in the children’s ministry.