Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM
Don't waste your time making New Year's resolutions. Instead, make a list -- and actually do the things on that list.
The tasks are not so difficult to accomplish if you tackle them one by one. In fact, you'll get a great sense of accomplishment. Here's a great "to-do" list for the New Year. You might be able to check off a few without even trying!
DETAIL YOUR DEBTS. Make a list of what you owe and the interest rate and minimum payment. (If you double the current minimum monthly payment, and keep making that same payment amount every month, without charging another penny, you will have the card paid off in less than 3 years.)
CHECK YOUR MORTGAGE. Plan to pay extra every month to pay it off early, and save a fortune in interest. If your rate is floating, or if you have a home equity loan, consolidate now to a fixed rate loan, if possible. Help is available at 800-CALL-FHA, if you're not behind on your payments. Contact your loan servicing company immediately if you're in danger of missing a payment.
GET CREDIT COUNSELING. If necessary, contact Consumer Counseling Credit Services. One call to (800) 388-2227 will put you in touch with the nearest local agency. You can talk over the phone to get unbiased, safe advice.
SECURE YOUR IDENTITY. I recommend www.identitysweep. com, a group I've been working with closely to encourage people to be pro-active about security -- not waiting until a breach occurs.
EVALUATE YOUR INVESTMENTS. At my Web site (www. TerrySavage.com) you can click on the blue box for a free, direct link to www.FinancialEngines.com where you can input your goals and current investments to get a secure, personalized investment analysis. (Many Fortune 100 companies offer this service to their employees to advise on their 401(k) plans.)
GET ON TRACK for retirement: Go to www.choosetosave.org, the Web site of the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Then click on "ballpark estimator" to get an unbiased look at how much more you need to save to reach your retirement goals.
UPDATE YOUR INSURANCE. Do you have enough life insurance? Do you think it's too expensive? Go to www.Accuquote.com where you can check term life prices, which have fallen dramatically over the last few years.
UPDATE YOUR ESTATE PLAN. Review your documents, keeping in mind that the estate tax law is scheduled to change dramatically in the next few years. Remember, state laws apply -- so if you've moved recently, be sure to find an attorney in your state of residence by contacting the state bar association.
DOUBLE CHECK your beneficiaries. Make sure you have named the correct beneficiaries for your life insurance, Individual Retirement Accounts, 401(k) and 403(b) plans. When you're gone, there's nothing you can do if your ex-spouse is still the beneficiary instead of your children!
BUY LONG TERM CARE insurance for yourself or your parents. The time to start is at age 50, but it is still affordable -- and worthwhile -- into your 70s.
Finally, look forward to the new year with hope and happiness in your heart. Maybe this is the year we will find peace on Earth.
Count your blessings, for they are many -- and not calculated on a financial ledger.
Resolve to do something different in the new year to make the world a better place. Tell someone you love them, call someone who is alone, and smile at a stranger.
My very best wishes to all of you for a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year. And God Bless America, for America is us! That's the Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Check out Terry's answers to reader questions at suntimes.com.