As we wrapped up 2017 and stepped into 2018, I want to thank you all for subscribing and reading my blog. Most of my blog posts were inspired either by my own experience or clients' questions. Today, I would like to give you a quick recap of the steps I took in my 2017 financial planning journey. You could also find the link to my past blog post associated with each topic.
1. Car purchase
We bought a car for my wife with traditional financing in the year as she planned to keep it for more than five years. In the middle of the year, after taking advantage of some benefits from the dealer financing, we refinanced the loan through a local credit union with a much lower interest rate.
Last week, my own car's lease just expired. We returned it and leased a new one because I planned to change a car every three years with lower monthly payments.
You could learn more about the pros and cons of leasing versus buying by reading my previous blog post “Should You Lease Or Buy A New Car?”.
2. Retirement account contribution
We made contributions to Roth IRAs since we are in a relatively low tax bracket this year and we expect to be in a higher tax bracket when we take out the money.
We also decided not to contribute to my wife's 401k plan at work due to the lack of employer match, limited investment options, and more importantly, our relatively low tax bracket.
You could learn more about different types of tax-advantaged investment accounts in my previous blog post "Tax Advantaged Investment Accounts".
3. Estate planning documents
We completed our estate planning documents including the revocable living trust, last will, financial power of attorney, and advance health care directives. Our estate is relatively simple. The main reason we set up a revocable living trust is to avoid probate. You could learn more about "What Is Probate? Why Should You Avoid It? How To Avoid It?" from my previous blog post which was also featured on Investopedia and Yahoo Finance.
4. Personal & Business Credits
I was added as a joint applicant when we applied a loan for my wife's car. We didn't need this financially, but this could help improve my credit score. I have never had this type of installment credit before. Applying for different kinds of loans usually helps improve your credit score in the long run.
We also started building our business credits by applying for business credit cards.
You may check out the blog post I wrote regarding "Something You May Not Know About The Credit Scores".
After the shocking data breach from Equifax, we did a series of things from checking whether our information was compromised to reducing the possibility of its going to be compromised in the future. You could learn all the steps that I took to protect our credit information before and after the data breach in my previous blog post "After Equifax Data Breach, What’s My Own Identity Protection Plan?".
5. Foreign financial accounts consolidation
We intentionally consolidated our financial accounts in China to make our foreign assets and income reporting process less complicated. I have written three blog posts related to the cross-border planning issues which are "Do You Need To Report Your Foreign Assets?", "How To Reduce U.S. Taxes On Your Foreign Income?" which was featured on Investopedia, and "Gift And Estate Tax: Special Considerations For Cross-Border Issues".
6. Life Insurance Review
After re-examining our current life insurance needs, we decided to wait another year or two to get some term insurance coverage.
You could learn more about term insurance from my previous blog post "The Cheapest Term Life Insurance Policy May Not Be The Best For You".
7. Auto & Rental Insurance review
Every year, we compare new rates from different insurance providers. In 2017, I have shopped around some financial technology companies who just entered the insurance market in the year. We saved more than 50% of premiums on our rental insurance with similar coverage through one of the FinTech companies. We plan to change our auto insurance to another FinTech company in 2018 once a small accident gets off from my driving record.
The price is definitely not the only factor you should consider when shopping for auto insurance. You could learn more about some other important factors by reading my previous blog post "4 Frequently Asked Questions On Auto Insurance".
If you are a homeowner, you may find my another blog post featured on Investopedia and Nasdaq helpful, which was "4 Common Misunderstanding About Your Homeowners Insurance Policy".
I also compiled a list of some FinTech companies in personal financial planning industry. It may help you find some interesting options to make your financial life simpler and easier.
8. Health insurance review
After comparing different health insurance options on the exchange and researching some alternative programs like healthcare ministries, I decided to stay with my current HSA eligible plan in 2018. I also opened and contributed the maximum allowable amount to my HSA for 2017, and I am planning to do the same thing for 2018. You could learn more about HSA in my previous blog post "HSAs: Something You Should Consider When You Shop For Health Insurance".
9. Investments review
Besides investing in a globally diversified portfolio, we also started making investments in other new asset classes, such as peer-to-peer lending and private real estate investment trusts. There is no such thing as the best investment for everyone. Therefore, you should always make investment decisions based on your specific situation.
If you are interested in what investment options you have in the U.S., you could take a loot at my previous blog post "What Can You Invest In The U.S.?".
If you wonder our opinions on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoins, you could read "To Bit Or Not To Bit: What Should Investors Make Of Bitcoin Mania?".
If you would like to know what we think is the best approach for a long-term investor, simply ask yourself these "Key Questions For The Long-Term Investor".
10. Tax optimization
Based on our own tax situation for the tax year of 2017, we sold some investments for a long-term capital gain in December to take advantage of a low capital gain tax rate.
We have also reviewed the new tax law and came out some tax strategies for 2018. You could check out my last week's blog post "5 Tax Planning Strategies Due To The Tax Reform" and see if any strategies could be applied to you.
Financial planning covers so many topics. Hopefully, one of my blog posts or even just one idea I mentioned gave you some inspiration to help you move one step closer to your goal in 2017. I will keep providing relevant and useful information in 2018. Feel free to share my blogs with your family and friends if you think it is beneficial to them. You are more than welcome to suggest any topics you are interested in. I may share my experience and understanding to help more people.
Again, thank you for all your support in 2017 and happy 2018!