Perform a hard-nosed, detailed audit of your finances. Review all indispensable expenses, short- and long-term debt, tax obligations, and needless spending. Get a crew of financial pros to help you, if necessary. Our feature “The Team You Need for Your Year-End Financial Checkup,” in this issue, can guide you in the selection of a financial planner, CPA, insurance agent, and estate planning attorney. Once you’ve grasped your financial standing, work with them to map out a specific plan to meet financial challenges and reach life goals. Don’t play ostrich, however, with debt and tax problems. Use their expertise to organize your finances in order to gain maximum flexibility.
Now, take action. You will not achieve your objectives without disciplined investing. I continue to be upset by the fact that most African Americans consistently save and invest less than their white counterparts of similar incomes—whether they earn $50,000 a year or $250,000. With the danger of being redundant, the easiest means of building a retirement nest egg is through employee-sponsored plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s. Let me share their value once again: Funds are deducted from your paycheck so you can invest in a range of vehicles with pre-tax dollars. In some cases, your employer will match a portion of the contribution. You’ll face stiff penalties and tax liabilities if you withdraw funds before age 59½, which works in your favor since it ensures that the plan is virtually untouchable until retirement age, and you’ll benefit from the power of compounding as your assets grow exponentially. In short, it protects you from yourself, by not allowing for early withdrawals.
So vow to stop sabotaging your future and reset your priorities now. Keep this financial commitment so you’ll be able to enjoy your sunset years with loved ones. To ultimately achieve the desired goals you have for you and your family, you must put yourself first.