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.
During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.