The year is over. At this point, many of us put off any changes we might be thinking of making until after the New Year. But why wait when you can start now? There's still time left to achieve some reasonable but meaningful financial goals before the calendar flips to 2019.
Check Your Credit Report
If you haven't checked your credit report yet this year, you may want to before the year ends. All three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – offer free credit reports annually. Even if you have checked your credit report at some point during the year through one credit bureau, it's not a bad idea to check another before the year is over.
Checking your credit report is an important habit to get into. It will allow you to get a better grasp on your financial habits and what is affecting your credit score. It will also help you spot any errors. If there is a mistake on your credit report, your credit score may be getting unfairly docked. When you spot a mistake, you should first approach the credit card company to see if it can be resolved. If it can't be resolved, you may want to consider filing a dispute. Checking your credit score at the end of the year is also an excellent way to decide what financial goals you may want to set for yourself in the New Year.
Review Your Budget
You certainly don't need to wait until January to take a look at your budget. Realistically, you'll only need to set aside a few hours to go through it, if that. Again, even if this is something you've done at another point during the year, it's wise to revisit it to ensure you're on track. Spending tends to vary by season, so you may have strayed from your budget since the last time you checked.
First, gather all the materials you will need to track what's coming in and going out each month. Then, decide how you're going to record everything. Go with what you're most comfortable with, whether that's writing things down by hand, keeping digital records, or using an app. Be sure to include everything. If you have supplemental income outside of your primary employment, add that. And on the other hand, be sure to keep track of every bill and expense that's going out. Once you see the numbers, you'll be able to see what your situation looks like and whether there are areas where you can cut back.
Give Your Debt Some TLC
At this time of year, a lot of us are adding to our debt rather than subtracting from it. Instead, take the end of the year to review where you are with debt. How much do you owe? How many different accounts do you have? Are you making progress the way you want to be? By answering these questions, you'll have a better idea of what your situation is heading into the New Year. Then, you'll be able to create an actionable plan going forward.
If you've already had a plan in place, take a look at whether you need to make any adjustments. Additionally, ask yourself if you had a solid plan set and didn't stick to it. How will you hold yourself more accountable in the future? Does the method need to be altered to suit your situation better? Carefully examining and asking yourself questions about your debt will allow you to have a clearer vision heading into the New Year.
Check-In On Your Retirement Savings
If you've been having retirement contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck all year, you may have neglected to check in on how your retirement is actually doing. The end of the year is the perfect time to take a look. Gauge whether you've saved as much as you'd hoped by this point. Ask yourself if you're contributing as much as you can afford. Also, consider whether you're contributing the maximum amount your company will match. If you can manage to up your contribution, that may be an excellent goal to set for yourself for the New Year. The sooner you start saving for retirement – and the more you save early on – the better off you'll be. Because of compound interest, you'll need to contribute less the earlier you begin to save. If you haven't begun saving at all yet, look into the steps you'll need to take to start saving before the end of the year.
We're in the home stretch of 2018. And by nature, the end of the year is a great time to recap how things have gone for the past 12 months – in every aspect of life. When it comes to your finances, you don't need to wait until the calendar flips to start accomplishing things. Many tasks that can improve your financial health don't take much time at all. By taking the time to achieve these goals before the year is over, you can position yourself for a strong start to the New Year. You'll know what your financial situation looks like, and you'll have an idea of what your resolutions for next year should look like.
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.