The start of the new year is a great time to focus on your finances and put them into perspective.

Competing demands on our time can often cloud our line of sight on what really matters. So, if you want a better handle on your finances, take these six foundational steps to get a better vision in 2020.

1. Review where you stand

Begin by looking at your broad financial picture. This includes determining your net worth (assets you own minus liabilities or debts you owe). Identify whether you can cut costs in order to put more money to work toward your key financial goals. Also make sure you have a sufficient emergency fund that could cover at least three to six months of income.

2. Reassess your goals

Determine if the goals you’ve established, such as education savings or retirement savings, are still appropriate based on your plans for the future. Are you on track to achieve them? Can you find more dollars to put toward them?

3. Consider your debt and credit score

If you haven’t checked your credit score lately, it’s a good idea to do so. Look at your current debts (auto loans, mortgages, student loans, etc.) to see if there are ways they can be paid down more quickly or if you could benefit by refinancing any loans.

4. Review your portfolio

Investment markets have performed well for an extended period of time. Are you prepared for increased unpredictability in the markets? Make sure the risk reflected in your portfolio aligns with your risk profile.

Consider rebalancing investments if your portfolio allocations have shifted due to varying performance for different assets.

5. Conduct a checkup of your protection strategy

Now is a good time to review your insurance policies to make sure you are properly covered. This includes everything from auto and home insurance to life insurance, disability income coverage and long-term care protection.

6. Solidify your estate plan

Pay special attention to your estate planning needs. This is a concern regardless of your age and assets. Review your will to be sure that it is current and reflects your wishes for how your legacy will be carried out. If you don’t have a will, arrange to have one prepared. Consider whether trusts need to be in place or if those in place are up to date. Also review beneficiary designations on your financial accounts and insurance policies.

In all of these matters and others, it can be helpful to sit down with your financial advisor to review where you stand and plot out your next steps for the year ahead.

— Tracy L. Edwards is a Financial Advisor CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Emporia, KS. He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 20 years. He can be reached at 702 Commercial Street, Suite 1B, 343-7937, or online at or by email at

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