Originally created 01/01/00

New year time for fresh start



Michael Cave plans to spend a couple of hours this holiday weekend with his wife reflecting on their accomplishments and thinking about what they want to do for the rest of the new year.

An independent financial planner, Mr. Cave is following his own advice.

New Year's Day, Mr. Cave and other financial planning professionals say, is a good time to start getting your financial house in order. He takes inventory of his assets and liabilities, thinks about what is important to him, and makes a list of goals on a yellow legal pad.

So while you're resolving to lose weight, or get organized, or clean out the garage, financial-planning professionals suggest that you also consider your financial condition -- and start the new year on the right foot.

"We tend to like to have a fresh start," Mr. Cave says.

At 46, Mr. Cave says he can see through the eyes of some of his older clients. Many of them have regret for things they did or did not do. Mr. Cave doesn't want to have regrets when he gets older.

He intends to profit from his past by planning for his future.

Starting the new year -- the new decade or century, if you prefer -- with a solid financial plan can be liberating, experts say. It is the first step to financial independence.

But don't try to do it all at once, planners say.

"Start with what is most important right now," financial planner Jennifer Noah says. "Take it one step at a time. It can be so overwhelming."

If you haven't taken time to assess your financial condition already, chances are that you won't be able to get organized and come up with a long-term plan overnight, experts say. Be prepared to spend at least an hour a week with your financial records for the next few months.

But start in the present. Don't worry about retrieving old records, Ms. Noah says. Some of them are important, but start organizing now. If you don't, the task can be too daunting.

Ms. Noah gives her clients an organization kit that helps them get their financial house in order. Most financial planners offer similar tools. She also suggests using a computer to keep records.

"Organizing is a must," she says.

But your system doesn't have to be complicated.

In fact, says financial planner Mark Maund of Cherry Bekeart & Holland, a simple system might be better. Gather all your records in one place. Put them in a folder.

It also will help you file your tax return.

Also, take inventory of any new assets that may need to be reported to your insurance company, such as jewelry. Unreported items may not be covered by a policy if there is a theft or fire.

"This time of year is a great time to do planning," Mr. Maund says.

Reach Frank Witsil at 823-3352.