By Terry Westlund, Co-founder of Financial Designs

It’s already the end of January  – for those of you who made resolutions, how’s it going? I imagine there are many of you who are going strong as January comes to a close. There is probably another sub-set of readers who might have pushed that resolution to the bottom of the proverbial “to-do” list.

Why are resolutions so hard to keep? Many of us have great aspirational goals but aim too high. While this may work initially during those first few weeks of the “new year enthusiasm”, overly aggressive goals are hard to maintain. So rather than deciding you are going to completely stop purchasing designer clothing, vacations, dinners out, or other fun indulgences, be realistic as you think about how you want to improve your finances.  Here are a few attainable goals to consider if you are hoping to organize your finances in 2018:

1) Minimize financial risks

Depending on your specific situation, in addition to health insurance, you may want to consider if you have adequate disability, life, and/or long term care coverage.

Disability income insurance shields you from financial disaster if you are unable to work for a long period of time due to sickness or injury. This includes scenarios that would allow you to keep practicing as a medical professional, but not in your preferred specialty.

Life insurance is vital because it can create a secure future for your loved ones if you aren’t there to provide for them. However, finding the right policy – or policies – to meet your exact needs can be difficult. Work with a professional to compare the advantages of term vs. permanent policies to arrive at a recommendation that will keep your premiums as low as possible while maximizing any future benefits.

Long-term care insurance helps pay for the cost of assisted living in case your health (or your parents’ health) or age requires it. It can protect your assets from being depleted if you require long-term care, and can remove the financial worry from an emotional decision.

2) Reduce tax burdens by reducing taxable income

Reducing taxable income can have a significant impact on what you owe Uncle Sam. Items like HSA and retirement contributions can be used to reduce taxable income.

For 1099 providers, the new tax code offers an attractive tax break to those who can successfully keep their taxable income under $315,000… with a phase-out up to $415,000. Work with your tax professional to determine how this might affect your tax strategy. You also can deduct health insurance premiums and business expenses, and you have the flexibility to make significant tax-deductible retirement contributions using various accounts like SEP IRAs, Individual 401(k)s, and Defined Benefit Plans.

3) Monitor your progress towards funding retirement

Work with an advisor that helps you set retirement goals and provides tools to track your progress. These tools should take into consideration not just your retirement funds, but also social security, pension plans and other assets. Additionally, your advisor should be someone who recognizes there is a balance between saving, paying off debt and enjoying life pre-retirement.

4) Establish a “fun fund” for vacations, concert tickets, hobbies, etc

Everyone has an ideal way of how they want to spend their “free” time. Establish a plan to fund those activities while eliminating “buyers remorse”. This is something your investment advisor can help with.

5) Ensure your assets are adequately protected

Physicians can spend decades working long hours to accumulate wealth, only to become targets for frivolous lawsuits that aren’t confined to malpractice issues. Work with an attorney to lower your financial profile, putting barriers between a potential lawsuit and your money.

Here at Financial Designs, we have a new year’s resolution as well. We are committing providing you valuable content through our new blog and our ongoing social media presence. We won’t be overly aggressive with our goal … meaning you probably won’t hear from our blog every week. But we will commit to regularly publishing helpful financial content throughout 2018. Thanks for reading our first entry –  we hope you have success in achieving your 2018 financial goals!