The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
Working towards financial wellness is often top of mind when setting New Year’s resolutions. However, financial goals may be hard to plan when the 2023 economic climate is up in the air.
Facing continued inflation and a possible recession next year, you may be wanting to save more despite the higher cost of groceries and other goods. You’re not alone, though — 54 percent of working adults who contributed the same or less to their retirement savings in 2022 (compared to 2021) say that inflation and higher costs of living kept them from saving more.
An unstable financial climate can make it confusing to know what to prioritize, where to place your available funds and what to expect. Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride, CFA, has the latest on what to do so that you can start 2023 on the right financial foot.
Key end-of-year personal finance insights for 2022
- 49% of Americans say that inflation is causing them to save less for unplanned expenses.
- 35% of Americans would need to borrow money in some way, either through a credit card, a personal loan or from family or friends, if they incurred an unplanned $1,000 expense.
- 32% of Americans are “very uncomfortable” with their level of emergency savings.
- 35% of Americans say they are actively saving more for emergencies in anticipation of a possible economic recession.
- 30% of Gen Zers (ages 18-25) say they’re behind where they should be on retirement savings.
- 46% of millennials (ages 26-41) say they’re behind where they should be on retirement savings.
- 65% of Gen Xers (ages 42-57) say they’re behind where they should be on retirement savings.
- 71% of baby boomers (ages 58-76) say they’re behind where they should be on retirement savings.
- 54% of those making between $80,000 to $99,999 say they’re behind where they should be on retirement savings — the largest of any income bracket.
- 30% of Gen Zers and millennials have increased their retirement contributions over the last year.
- At the end of 2021, 33% of Americans said they expected their financial situation to improve in 2022.
Greg McBride’s financial checklist for the end of 2022
1. Make a budget and review your spending
The past couple of years have been full of change with many people working remotely and many facing unemployment. With all of this change, there’s a good chance your spending habits have changed as well, which means it’s time to evaluate where your money is going.
“Rising prices may have soaked up whatever additional income came from your last pay increase, leaving you wondering where all the money is going,” McBride says. “Make a monthly budget for 2023 and resolve to track your spending against it throughout the year. You may need to make adjustments during the year as certain expenses increase and that may require cutting back in another area. Calibrate your spending with your income, and any month you spend less than budgeted, transfer the difference into savings.”
2. Check your progress on paying down debt
“How much debt do you have relative to the beginning of the year? Congratulations if you’ve made steady progress on paying it down, and if you’ve gone in the other direction, make a game plan to pay down debt over the next year.” McBride says.
To get closer to paying off your debt, McBride suggests looking for sources of additional income, even if it’s just temporary, and putting that money toward your debt. If you have credit card debt, look into a 0 percent or other low-rate balance transfer offer that can insulate you from further interest rate increases and put you on the path to paying off the debt once and for all.
These are just two potential strategies for accelerating your debt repayment, but of course, everyone’s plan may look different depending on your current financial situation.
3. Review your savings progress and set goals for 2022
A key factor in any strong financial plan is having savings to fall back on in an emergency. You may have had to dip into your emergency fund recently, and that’s OK (that’s what it’s there for). Now, it’s time to focus on how you’re going to replenish or grow your savings in 2023.
“Add up the amount you’ve contributed to your retirement accounts, 529 college savings plans, savings accounts and other investment accounts and subtract out any withdrawals taken during the year.” McBride says. “Set goals for 2023 and put the plan into action by increasing your workplace 401(k) plan contributions, setting up a direct deposit from your paycheck into a dedicated savings account and arranging for automatic transfers into an IRA and/or 529 college savings account.”
4. Contribute to your 401(k) by Dec. 31
If you’re fortunate enough to receive a holiday or year-end bonus, you may want to consider earmarking as much as you can toward your 401(k) plan, McBride says. Additionally, if your company offers a match that you haven’t maxed out, do so before it’s too late.
5. Consider a Roth conversion
Due to the bear market in 2022, your retirement account may have fallen sharply. McBride says to consider taking advantage by converting some of your pretax retirement assets, such as a traditional IRA, into a Roth IRA.
“Be advised that converting will trigger taxes on any contributions not already taxed, so be sure to consult your tax advisor,” McBride says.
If you earn too much to contribute to a Roth IRA, consider a back-door Roth IRA contribution.
“If you’re unable to contribute to a Roth IRA directly because of your income, you may benefit from contributing to a traditional IRA, then converting the funds to a Roth IRA,” McBride says. “If you have an existing traditional IRA, be sure to consult your tax advisor about the tax implications before converting anything.”
6. Review your asset allocation and rebalance your portfolio
The financial markets have fallen sharply this year, so your investment mix may need some attention.
“Taking the opportunity to rebalance back to your intended mix of stocks, bonds, cash and alternative investments means lightening up on things that have fared better – like cash – and adding to asset classes that have slumped, like stocks and bonds have this year,” McBride says. “This also enforces the discipline of ‘buying low’ and ‘selling high.’”
7. Review your beneficiaries
Adding a beneficiary to your accounts is critical to ensure your assets will go to the person you intended them to. Additionally, it’s important to note that beneficiaries trump wills, so make sure the two documents are aligned in their directives.
“If you haven’t looked at it in a while or especially if there has been a change in family dynamics such as a marriage or divorce, review the beneficiary designation on your life insurance and retirement accounts to make sure it reflects your current intentions,” McBride says.
8. Harvest tax losses
“If you have losing stock positions in a taxable account and they no longer fit your investment needs, consider selling them to offset other gains you’ve taken this year. If you haven’t realized any gains, the tax loss can be used to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income and any unused losses can be carried forward to next year,” McBride says.
These losses must be realized, meaning you have sold the stock, in order to qualify for the deduction. Additionally, this has to be done before the final trading day of the year, Dec. 30.
9. Check your flexible spending account balance
If you take advantage of a flexible spending account (FSA) offered by your employer, check your balance and see how much you have left to spend because these balances are “use it or lose it.”
“Many employers offer a grace period until mid-March, giving you an additional two and a half months to use up the money set aside this year, but if not, you will need to exhaust the funds by Dec. 31 to avoid any forfeiture,” McBride says.
10. Complete open enrollment and select your employer benefits
The fourth quarter typically marks the beginning of open enrollment, which is when employees can select their benefits for the upcoming year. If you haven’t already, make it a priority to complete your employer’s open enrollment so that you can secure benefits for 2023 that fit your needs.
If you miss out on open enrollment, you will be stuck with the selections from the previous year or no benefits at all.
“Don’t overlook this opportunity to make any changes to your benefits, such as adding or removing a spouse or significant other,” McBride says. “Consider utilizing a flexible spending account to pay for next year’s health care, dependent care or transit costs. This saves you money by allowing you to pay with pretax dollars. Think of it as getting a discount equal to your tax bracket.”
11. Get a free copy of your credit report
Have you checked your credit report lately? If you answered no, check to make sure that everything’s how it should be.
“Regularly checking your credit report is a great way to spot errors or evidence of identity theft,” McBride says. “Knowing what is on your credit report and that everything is correct is important when going to apply for a loan, rent an apartment or even change insurance carriers.”
You can get a free credit report annually at AnnualCreditReport.com. Additionally, most credit card companies offer some sort of credit score monitor. These scores may be slightly different than what’s on your official credit report; nonetheless, they’re a good free tool for regularly monitoring your credit.
12. Pay down your credit card debt
Credit card APRs have soared this year, with the average rate around 19 percent.
“Credit card debt is the most expensive debt most households have, so put some urgency behind the efforts to get these balances paid off,” McBride says. “Paying down a 19 percent credit card balance is like earning a 19 percent return on your money – without taking any risk.”
You can take a few approaches to paying off your credit card debt, but a good rule of thumb is always to try and pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first.
13. Review your credit card benefits and reward offers
If you haven’t paid attention, you might be missing out on untapped opportunities to save money offered by the cards in your wallet — perks like extra cash back on groceries and food delivery, and free access to premium apps like Calm, Spotify or GrubHub.
“Check your cards and make sure you’re aware of category spending payouts that have changed and are using the right card for those expenditures,” McBride says.
14. Apply for a new credit card and save money
- Scoring a generous sign-up bonus (roughly worth $200-$900).
- Taking advantage of zero-interest intro periods for up to 21 months, which will allow you to pay for big items or holiday purchases without incurring interest.
“Use credit cards to your advantage, not the card issuer’s advantage,” McBride says. “Pay the balance in full every month. No-annual-fee-rewards cards paying two percent back, or more in some categories, can put some of that spending back in your pocket.”
When shopping for a new credit card, look for one whose earning categories fit your spending habits. Also look into your likelihood of being approved for the card. Tools like Bankrate’s CardMatch give you access to prequalified offers without affecting your score and can help with the selection process.
15. Review your insurance policies
Take a look at your home, auto and life insurance policies to ensure they still meet your needs. Inflation has caused insurance rates to rise, but that also means that the costs to settle claims are higher because materials and labor cost more. The end of the year is a great time to check to see if you need more coverage.
You may need to adjust your deductible, too. Inflation may have changed your financial situation, so may no longer be able to afford a higher deductible or maybe you have the savings to warrant bumping your deductible up a bit.
“Shop around to make sure you’re still getting the best deal,” McBride says. “Don’t think that because your home and auto premiums have been going up each year that every carrier will charge the same price.”
The U.S. has weathered several recessions over the past several years, and it may seem overwhelming to possibly face another. However, by understanding your current financial picture, you can set yourself on a secure path in 2023.
During breaks from making your 2023 budget, don’t forget to give yourself the space to congratulate yourself on the end of another year. Setting yourself up for financial wellness is no small feat, and taking any step can be a huge jump to setting up your future.
Bankrate.com commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the three mentioned surveys:
- The retirement savings survey’s total sample size was 2,312 U.S. adults, of whom 1,247 are working full-time, part time, or temporarily unemployed and 643 who are contributing either about the same or less to their retirement savings compared to last year. Fieldwork was undertaken between September 21-23, 2022. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a nonprobability-based sample using quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.
- The recession preparedness survey’s total sample size was 2,390 U.S. adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between July 27-29, 2022. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a nonprobability-based sample using quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.
- The financial expectations for 2022 survey total sample size was 2,450 U.S. adults. Fieldwork was undertaken November 29th – December 1st, 2021. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a nonprobability-based sample using quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.
Bankrate conducted two surveys — unplanned expenses and emergency savings — via telephone by SSRS on its Omnibus survey platform. The SSRS Omnibus is a national, weekly, dual-frame bilingual telephone survey.
- Interviews for the unplanned expenses survey were conducted from January 4 – January 9, 2022 among a sample of 1,004 respondents in English (973) and Spanish (31). Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (203) and cell phone (801, including 603 without a landline phone). The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.41% at the 95% confidence level. All SSRS Omnibus data are weighted to represent the target population.
- Data collection for the emergency savings survey was conducted from June 3 – June 5, 2022, among a sample of 1,025 respondents. The survey was conducted via web (n=995) and telephone (n=30) and administered in English (n=1,000) and Spanish (n=25). The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All SSRS Opinion Panel Omnibus data are weighted to represent the target population of U.S. adults ages 18 or older. Data collection for surveys fielded prior to 2022 were conducted entirely via RDD telephone.