How to Strengthen Your Finances in a Brand New Year

With a new year comes a series of new challenges, and first among them are those annual resolutions. What goals are you going to focus on for 2021? Maybe you want to go on a diet, quit smoking, or start exercising. Or maybe you want to start saving money or adopt a new budget.

Pursuing your financial goals is something you can start anytime, but a new year is a great milestone to start fresh — especially when the previous year has given you a lot to overcome. As you look ahead to 2021, here are some ideas that can give you a head start on bolstering your finances while improving yourself in the process.

Beef up your network

The pandemic may have strained your business network, so take this opportunity to reconnect with clients, partners, suppliers, and others. Reach out to make new contacts, as well.

Even if you’re still working from home and can’t use traditional methods (in-person meetings, conferences, social gatherings, etc.), you can still make use of your digital network to forge connections. LinkedIn is the most commonly mentioned professional network, but it isn’t the only one. Alignable and Meetup are among others worth considering.

The academic world has several sites to offer, as well. And don’t forget that you can network through broad-based social media like Facebook and Twitter, too. Just remember, if you’re using these platforms for professional purposes, stay professional. Prospective employers and partners often check these sites for any sign that you might not be what they’re looking for.

Of course, you can always use email, text messaging, and apps like FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype to connect. The more connections you maintain, the more opportunities you’ll have to grow your scope — and your income.

Be of service

Another way to network is by being of service in your community. You might want to help out homebound neighbors by delivering groceries, looking after their pets, or maintaining a garden. You may not see an immediate financial benefit, but you might be opening the door to one down the road.

Service clubs may still be operational, even if they’re not meeting in person during the pandemic, so check out what kinds of services they provide and see where you can plug yourself in. You can still give blood and make donations to help out, too.

And if you don’t know where to start, plug in your location (city or ZIP code) with VolunteerMatch to find service organizations where you can lend a hand. Besides expanding your circle and your capabilities, you’ll be gaining something else valuable: the knowledge that you’re making a difference.

Boost your productivity

It’s a simple equation: The more productive you are, the more money you’ll make. But it’s easy to lose focus, particularly if you’re working from home, and wind up wasting hours you could be using to make money.

One way to guard against this is to ensure that you have a quiet, insulated workspace with minimal distractions where you won’t be disturbed. You might want to put up a “do not disturb” sign on the door and make sure your family or housemates know when you’re off-limits.

Build your credit

It takes money to make money. Well, sometimes. Other times, what you need is solid credit to invest in your future.

It pays to know your credit score and ways to improve it, so you’ll have access to sufficient credit when the time comes. Whether you’re buying a rental property or a new laptop for your home office, credit can be a valuable asset.

You can get a free credit report each year, and the new year is the perfect time to order one. But don’t stop there. Stay on top of your payments and draw on your credit judiciously, staying within your budget to ensure your number stays up there. (A score of 670 or above is considered good, and 740 or over is very good.)

Protect yourself

Another good way to protect your credit, and your financial security in general, is to purchase insurance. That way, you’ll have a buffer against potentially catastrophic expenses like a hospital bill or car-crash liability, which can devastate your fiscal health as well as your physical health.

Do your research to find out how much insurance you need and what you can afford, based on your situation. What are your risk factors? What kind of deductible do you want? What kind of premiums can you afford? Ask yourself these and other questions, comparing plans and providers, before you sign on the dotted line.

Expand your skill set

There’s more that we don’t know than what we do know. That’s actually good news, as it means you’ll always have plenty of room to grow. You might want to learn new skills related to your current career. Or maybe you want to start a side hustle or change your line of work completely by going back to school or seeking out online courses.

New skills don’t have to be directly work-related, either. You might want to get CPR training, learn a new sport or recreational activity, try out some new healthy recipes in the kitchen, or learn how to repair a car. Each new skill you learn makes you more capable, no matter what it is or how you can apply it.

There are so many more possibilities, it’s impossible to list them all, and you can learn many of them at little or no cost. That’s the great thing about opportunity: It’s always out there if you know where to look and can be creative about getting there.

Despite the limitations of our current circumstances, financial opportunity still awaits you in 2021. What are you waiting for? Go out there and grab it.

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