Over the next twelve months there is one thing that is the most important thing you can do financially. Chances are you can either complete it or make great progress toward its completion over the next 12 months. What it is depends on your circumstances. Consider the following to help you decide what it most important for you.
Build a plan
If you feel like your finances are just a mess, you don't know what you have, what you owe or where things are, this may be the year to get it all organized. Figure out what you have and what you owe. Set some goals and develop a plan to achieve them.
Credit card debt
If you have credit card debt that has been frustrating you financially for the last few years, you may be wise to focus this year on significantly reducing those balances so you can get completely out of debt, buy a home if you don't already own one and start saving for your children's education and your retirement.
Buy a home
If you don't yet own a home and you have a job, you may want to make this year all about saving for the down payment. It will take sacrifice, but you can save enough for the down payment on a modest home in one year.
If you have several kids and no college savings, this may be the year to kick start the college fund by making that the key financial focus of your year. If your kids are in high school, this would be a very good idea. You can't fund four years of college for four kids in one year (it's almost impossible to fund one year of college for one student in one year - which is why we save for college) but you can make a big contribution in one year. By getting a big start this year, you'll start earning interest on your savings which is a bit like having the wind at your back.
Everyone needs to have retirement savings, but if your kids are all gone and you're still working, now would be a good time to focus your finances on your retirement savings. The key rule for retirement savings is the sooner the better. Making an extra-large deposit in your retirement savings years before you retire will have a bigger impact than saving the same amount of dollars over the remaining years to retirement.
If you have accumulated a net worth (assets minus liabilities) of more than $1.5 million (congratulations by the way) you may need to talk to an estate planning attorney to help you organize your wealth for the most tax efficient way to move those assets to the next generation.
Of course, you can and should make charitable giving a part of every year's financial planning. If your retirement is funded, the kids have completed college and your estate is in order, this year may be about organizing major charitable giving, to leave a legacy of having made the world a better place.
Not just this year, but every year brings a new set of challenges. Take the time every year to set goals and priorities for the year to fit into your long-term goals so that you can achieve your financial objectives and retire when and how you want.