As the new year approaches, I’ve been thinking about how I can get better at managing my money. I’ve been a personal finance writer for over four years, which has helped give me a decent financial foundation.
I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on financial basics like budgeting and saving. However, there are still things I want to learn more about. I feel like my knowledge of certain aspects of investing and taxes could definitely be improved, which I plan to work on in 2023. Here are my personal finance learning goals as we head into the new year.
I’m lucky that there are many tax and financial professionals on my partner’s side of the family, so I don’t handle my taxes and get free help. However, I want to start taking more responsibility for my own taxes. Although I know many other self-employed writers outsource their taxes, it almost feels hypocritical to write articles about how to file a tax return when I don’t do it myself!
I think what’s been holding me back is that taxes feel “scarier” than other aspects of personal finance. There are consequences and penalties for messing things up and underestimating how much quarterly estimated tax you need to pay. It feels safer to have someone else who’s a professional handle it, but that just seems like passing the buck. This year I want to face financial fears like taxes and become more self-sufficient.
Another area of personal finance that I’m a bit uncomfortable and out of my depth with is investing. The main way we save for retirement is by investing in Vanguard target date funds through my spouse’s employer-sponsored 401k. We don’t do much investing outside of this. We aren’t enrolled in my spouse’s ESPP and I don’t have my own retirement accounts set up yet, which I need to work on in 2023.
Again, I think the main reason why I’m intimidated by investing is that I don’t want to mess things up. There’s a real risk of losing money in the stock market if you purchase the wrong securities. I know better than to try to time the market, so I don’t want to learn day trading or become an active investor. I still want to buy and hold securities over the long haul, because I believe that’s the best, safest, and most reliable way to build wealth.
But I think I want to diversify our holdings and invest in other assets besides Vanguard mutual funds. I want to learn how to create a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds on my own instead of relying on Vanguard to do the heavy lifting for me.
I also want to look into alternative investments like gold, REITs, and buying shares of farmland. I’ve heard that alternative assets can be more resilient during recessions and periods of high inflation. So I want to do some more research and see if it might be worth investing a small portion of our disposable income in nontraditional securities.
However, I’m still going to stay far away from crypto and NFTs, which have never made much sense to me. Crypto doesn’t seem like it’s backed by anything and has always felt like speculation, so I avoid it.
My spouse and I haven’t created wills or done any sort of end-of-life planning. The most I’ve done is sign up to be an organ donor. While I know that we’re young, we’re also starting to accumulate more assets. We’ve paid off about $30,000 of our mortgage, we have a fully funded emergency fund, and our 401k balance is starting to grow.
If both of us died, we’d probably want all of our assets to transfer to my spouse’s mom, who isn’t as well-off as my parents due to being a single mom for many years. As of now with no will in place, I’m not sure where our assets would go. So I want to learn more about end-of-life planning this year and maybe tackle putting together a basic will.
Healthcare and Insurance
Healthcare and insurance is another topic that makes my head spin! My spouse is the one who pays our medical bills and deals with insurance. A few months ago, we discovered a billing issue on one of our medical bills. Some basic outpatient lab work my spouse had done was miscoded and was several hundred dollars more expensive than it should’ve been. We didn’t pay the bill and my spouse is still fighting with the hospital to get the issue resolved.
When it comes to insurance and billing problems like this, I’m totally clueless. I’m not sure I would’ve even spotted the coding issue on my own! I want to be able to help more when problems like this arise, so I’m planning to do more research on health insurance and billing in the new year. Eventually I want to take over and handle insurance-related phone calls since I have a more flexible schedule due to being self-employed.
Share Your Thoughts
Do you have any financial weaknesses you want to shore up this year? Are there any aspects of personal finance you want to learn more about? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!