I don’t know how wild the parties were this New Year’s Eve.
In the age of social distancing, it’s still in poor taste to cram a ton of people into a room and clink glasses. But I know that I wasn’t sad to see 2020 come to a close.
My celebration was tame this year, but I certainly celebrated!
The year wasn’t all bad, of course. I enjoyed spending more time at home with my kids, and my wife and I welcomed our daughter into the world.
Once all was said and done, it ended up being a good year.
But I’m still looking forward to a fresh start in 2021, and I’m betting you are too.
As we start a new year, let’s do it right.
Here are three new year tips to make 2021 your best year yet.
Objective & Measurable
New Year Tip No. 1: Set a resolution that is objective and measurable.
I’ve never completely fulfilled a New Year’s resolution, but some years I come a lot closer than others.
And I’ve found that all the years I came closest had one thing in common: I made the resolution specific rather than vague.
“Go to the gym more often” is not a viable resolution. How would you measure success there? How often is often enough?
Compare that to “Go to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday” or “Run 20 miles per week.” These are measurable. You can track your progress.
So, what was your resolution? Do you want to know more about trading and investing?
You could’ve resolved to read one new investing book per month. Or place one well-researched trade.
(Shameless plug time…) Perhaps you resolved to read the latest from yours truly — or Chief Investment Strategist Adam O’Dell, or Research Analyst Matt Clark — each week.
Whatever you chose, make sure it’s objective and measurable, not wishy-washy or vague.
Save, Save, Save
New Year Tip No. 2: Start saving early.
You might know by now that I’m the financial planning guy.
I’ll drone for hours about the importance of maxing out your 401(k) plan. Yes, it’s boring and conventional advice. But it’s solid.
I don’t know what the stock market will do in 2021, and I don’t care.
I still plan to max out my 401(k) contribution for the tax break and the matching benefits. Even if I don’t earn a single nickel in the stock market, the tax savings and employer matching give me a juicy enough return to get excited.
In 2021, you can contribute $19,500 to a 401(k) plan — or $26,000 if you’re 50 or older. But for most savers, that isn’t easy to do unless you really plan it out.
That $19,500 in contributions works out to $1,625 per month, or $750 to $800 per paycheck, depending on when your employer pays.
That might be a large bite out of your paycheck. But to contribute that maximum amount, it gets worse the longer you wait.
If you start saving in March, you have to set aside $1,950 per month.
If you wait until July, you’re talking about over $3,000 per month.
The longer you wait, the more you have to contribute per paycheck in order to meet the maximum. So, do yourself a favor and start early!
Adapt and Innovate
New Year Tip No. 3: Be adaptable.
When the pandemic first shut the world down in March, I was stuck on a farm in Peru.
The lockdown was a real lockdown. It wasn’t the joke of a “lockdown” that I heard my friends whining about back in Dallas.
I couldn’t just throw on a mask and run to Walmart to buy something, and I sure as hell couldn’t call Amazon and have a package magically appear on my doorstep.
The army patrolled the highway, and we were not to leave our home except to go to the grocery store or hospital. Period.
I misunderstood the rules of the quarantine, tried to buy gas for the car and nearly got thrown in a Peruvian jail for the night. (I’m not comfortable admitting the size of the bribe I had to pay to avoid that fate.)
But I still had a business to run in Dallas. All I had at my disposal was an iPhone with a cracked screen and a laptop with an internet connection that appeared to be powered by a hamster running on a wheel.
Guess what? I got through it. I don’t know how I did it, honestly. It’s all a blur at this point. But I adapted and pushed through.
In 2020, we all had to adapt.
I truly hope this year gets us closer to normal. But I hope that spirit of innovation that helped us all survive sticks around.
A lot of businesses failed this year, but those that adapted and survived are the leanest, meanest, most effective companies the world has ever seen.
I like to believe that the innovation we made this year will continue to boost productivity years from now. But we can’t rest on our laurels.
So, in 2021, be sure to keep that torch of innovation burning!
Money & Markets contributor Charles Sizemore specializes in income and retirement topics. Charles is a regular on The Bull & The Bear podcast. He is also a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox Business. Follow Charles on Twitter @CharlesSizemore.