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Make Your Investing Resolutions Reality in 2018

2018 Investing Resolutions

These six New Year's resolutions will give your investment portfolio a boost in 2018, deliver long-lasting rewards and require neither spandex nor excessive amounts of kale.

It’ll be nearly impossible to find an open treadmill at your local gym come January. By March? Everything’s back to normal again.

Welcome to the season of good intentions. Many people will start 2018 with a New Year’s resolution like exercising more or losing weight, only to abandon it within weeks.

Sound familiar? Even if you haven’t succeeded in the past, 2018 can be different. (No, really!) If you’re unsure where to begin and would like to start with some quick wins, how about your investment portfolio?

Investing resolutions can reap long-lasting rewards and require neither spandex nor excessive amounts of kale. Pick and choose from the following investing resolutions, or go ahead and tackle the entire list.

Save more (and invest it)

Spending less and saving more is a noble resolution, but here’s some bad news: Saving money won’t adequately prepare you for retirement unless you invest it.

First, some ground rules. Don’t invest in the market unless you’ve established a rainy-day fund with enough money to cover three to six months of expenses. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t invest money you’ll need within the next three years.

Once you have some short-term savings accumulated, work toward contributing 15% of your income to your retirement accounts. Everyone can make (and keep) this resolution, whether your nest egg has cracked the six-figure mark or it looks more like, well, an egg. Even an extra $20 each week will add up to nearly $40,000 in 30 years, thanks to compounding interest.

Exercise more (than just your 401(k))

Think of saving for retirement like exercising. A routine workout may get the job done, but your body (or nest egg) won’t radically transform until you switch things up.

If you’ve been contributing to your 401(k) — congratulations, by the way, as it’s an important first step — resolve to open an IRA in 2018. These accounts carry a maximum contribution of $5,500 for people under age 50 ($6,500 for those 50 and up) and offer a broader array of assets that often have lower fees than employer-sponsored plans.

First, decide whether you prefer the Roth or traditional variety. (The difference comes down to when you’ll be taxed, now with a Roth or later with a traditional when you take distributions.) Once that’s settled, you can open an IRA in a matter of minutes. You may not burn a lot of calories in the process, but you’ll appreciate this move someday — maybe even as soon as tax season if you open a traditional IRA.

Lose weight (from excess fees)

The U.S. stock market has had a tremendous year, but if your portfolio’s performance is a bit sluggish, it’s time to take action. Costly fees may be weighing down your portfolio and hampering its future potential. A NerdWallet study found that a millennial paying 1% more in investment fees than his peers will sacrifice nearly $600,000 in returns over 40 years.

Don’t be that person. Here’s how to trim the fat: Take note of the expense ratios for each investment in your portfolio and then research whether less costly alternatives will let you achieve the same goal. Have an account with an online broker or robo-advisor? Many of these providers offer access to financial advisors who can assist with this process. Or you can consult with one directly.

Eat healthier (in your portfolio)

This time of year, it’s easy to overindulge on sweets, whether at the dessert table or within your portfolio.

With U.S. stocks up about 20% in 2017, your once-healthy portfolio probably has gotten out of whack. It’s time to restore your intended allocations to stocks and bonds. Experts recommend at least 5% to 10% of your portfolio be allocated to bonds, but your strategy may vary depending on your risk tolerance or age.

In 2018, resolve to rebalance your portfolio and set up automatic rebalancing, a feature offered by many providers or inherent to target-date funds you may have in your 401(k). Sometimes that’s as simple as a click of a button.

Get (your accounts) organized

So you’ve packed up old clothes and donated them to charity. But that 401(k) from your first job? Somehow it’s still hanging around.

Let 2018 be the year you finally roll over your old 401(k) into an IRA. Why? You’ll most likely pay lower fees than with that old employer’s plan, plus you’ll gain access to a broader selection of investments and possibly more guidance from your new broker.

A rollover will require you to fill out some paperwork and funnel money into new investments, but it’s time well-spent. Lower fees, greater flexibility and more money at retirement? You can probably spare a couple of afternoons for that.

Learn a new (investing) skill

While your friends learn French, Parlez-vous investing? If you answered no, your burgeoning interest is calling. (We know it’s there; you’re reading this list.)

It’s easy, and often wise, to take the set-it-and-forget-it approach to investing. But that may not be enough to satisfy a curious mind. Becoming “invested” will make you more engaged in the lifelong pursuit of managing your finances. Gravitate to what interests you, be it reading an investing book, researching how options work (hint: they’re not as difficult as they seem) or trying your hand at trading stocks.

Just be sure to keep your newfound hobby in check. Reading a few books does not the next Warren Buffett make, nor should you overhaul your portfolio to chase the latest investment du jour.

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