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A lot can pile up over a year, or even during a season. Here's a short checklist to help you – and your family – organize finances in the new year.

1. Understand your budget

Cleaning your finances starts with taking a step back and having a good, long look at your financial decisions. Do you know what comes in and goes out of your financial accounts? Taking inventory of all your accounts and where they stand will help you keep track of spending and gain a better picture of your overall wealth. This, in turn, creates a good foundation for setting realistic financial goals.

2. Declutter and consolidate your accounts

Over time, you may have opened several accounts at different financial institutions, managing multiple administrations with duplication of fees and investments. You can simplify this process by consolidating accounts with one institution that can manage it all on your behalf, or leverage digital tools to see everything in one place.

3. Create a personal and financial timeline

What are your personal priorities for the new year? Maybe you plan to expand your business, start a family or buy a second home. Whatever your plans are, most of them will have financial implications. Knowing what's important to you personally can help in aligning your financial plans to these priorities.

4. Allocate savings to short-, medium- and long-term goals

Dividing your savings among short-, medium- and longer-term goals can help you determine the amount of risk you should take on. For instance, you should take less risk with funds set aside for the short-term versus those set aside for the long-term, when savings in the form of a pension can be invested to potentially realize better returns in the long run.

5. Review your asset mix

After-tax returns may depend on how your portfolio is allocated among stocks, fixed income and cash. Speak with an advisor to find out whether there's a need to rebalance your portfolio to meet the targets you set. In addition to periodically rebalancing your portfolio, ensure your asset allocation is suitable for the life stage you are in right now. Is your portfolio appropriate for your age, personal goals and risk appetite?

6. Ensure your will and power of attorney are up to date

Check with your advisor to ensure that your signed will and power of attorney (POA) are current, for both medical and financial affairs. Your will sets out your wishes for the distribution of your assets after your death, while an enduring POA is effective only when a person loses cognitive capacity. Everyone faces different and circumstance-specific situations; seeking professional advice can help ensure that your plan is designed to address your unique set of needs.

7. Establish appropriate account structures and beneficiary designations

Before considering the legal ownership of an account, create a list of all your accounts, including those set up through your employer (employer pension, stock savings plan, etc.), and ask yourself these two questions: “How is this account legally owned?" and “Who is the beneficiary?"

The appropriateness of your account structures and beneficiary designations will depend largely on how you intend to have your estate distributed; so speak with your legal advisor for advice as you update your will.


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