back to top

About Us

Tips & News

10 Tips for New Year Financial Planning

The new year is a time of both reflections and resolutions. It’s a chance to evaluate your life and think about what you hope to accomplish in 2019. If you haven’t settled on a resolution, or you want to take on another one, there are a few smart financial moves you should think about.

It can be hard to stick to resolutions, which is why it’s important to set clear goals and strategize for success. Whether you’re hoping to buy a house in 2019 or just want to make the most of your income, here are 10 easy ways to make 2019 the best year yet for your wallet.

Get Started with the Basics

Pull Your Credit Reports

Even if you don’t plan on making any major purchases, you should keep an eye on your credit. Annual Credit Report offers free credit reports from all three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You get one free report from each bureau every year.

This important step will let you know if you have any major credit issues. If your report shows unfamiliar accounts, it could mean your identity was stolen. You may also find missed payments that you actually paid. Either way, you’ll want to catch and correct any problems as soon as possible.

If you think you’ve been targeted by identity thieves, you’ll want to either close or freeze any affected bank or credit card accounts. You may also want to freeze your credit, which means that no one (including you) will be able to open up any new accounts without providing the password you set up. Next, you should document the fraud by filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission and with the credit card bureau (they must report the same information to the other two bureaus, so you shouldn’t have to do this three times). You may also want to alert your local police department. These reports create a paper trail, which may help you dispute fraudulent charges.

Ask Experts About the New Tax Law

A sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code took effect this year, and taxpayers will feel the changes for the first time while filing their 2018 taxes. Your taxes will likely be affected no matter which tax bracket you’re in. Take time to figure out how your taxes will change so that your tax situation won’t be a surprise in April.

This is especially important if you live in a high-tax state, pay property taxes, or make mortgage payments. The new tax law doubled the standard deduction, and many people who used to itemize may now find that it’s better to take the standard deduction. Check with a tax expert so you can be sure you’re making the best move.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

Use the new year as an opportunity to re-evaluate your insurance plans. Take a look at your car, health, and home insurance plans, and make sure the coverage is both affordable and adequate. When you’re adding it all up, don’t forget about the additional charges that get tacked on to insurance services, like co-pays and deductibles.

Take Financial Planning to the Next Level with These Advanced Tips

Use Technology to Your Advantage

The most powerful financial planning tool is right in your pocket. Apps like Betterment and Wealthfront can be downloaded straight to your phone, allowing you to access financial advice, investment options, and retirement accounts without getting off the couch.

There are also apps like Acorns and Wealthsimple, which focus on making investing as easy as possible. Just answer a few basic questions about your financial goals, and the apps will create a personalized investment plan.

Link a credit or debit card to these robo-investors, and the apps will round up every purchase to the nearest dollar. Those nickels and dimes add up, and they’re automatically invested according to your plan.

Keep it Traditional with a Personal Consultation

Financial planning apps are convenient, and they keep your costs down, but there are benefits to meeting with a financial advisor in person. If you have a question while using a financial app, you’ll have to scour the “Contact Us” page to find the right number to call. Meeting with an advisor in person gives you the opportunity to ask those questions as soon as they pop into your head.

Advisors also have a holistic sense of financial health, as opposed to apps that focus solely on investing. Financial planners are an invaluable asset for people with big financial goals and not much expertise, but the higher level of service will cost more than financial apps.

Automate Your Bills

Stop telling yourself you’ll set up auto-pay for your bills this year and actually do it! Once it’s set up, you’ll never accidentally miss a payment (which helps your credit score). It also saves you time every month, which you can use to put more thought into your financial goals.

Many companies offer paperless billing, and when that’s coupled with auto-pay, your bills will become as waste-free as they are hassle-free.

Prepare for a New Home with These Home-Buying Tips

Start Saving for a Down Payment

If want to buy a home in 2019, you’ll need to figure out how much you can afford for the down payment. A common target is 20% of the home’s total cost, but put down as much as you’re comfortable spending. Once you figure out how much you’ll put down, set up a timetable and figure out how much you should be saving every month to reach your goal in time.

There are also often programs that offer down-payment assistance, and you can get a conventional loan for as little as 3% down. It’s a myth that you need 20% down to buy a home.

Add Up Your Debt

Before you make a big purchase, figure out how much debt you already have. Start off your new year by calculating your current debt-to-income ratio. To do that, just divide your monthly debt (think car and student loan payments) by your monthly income.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to spend less than 35%—40% of your income on debt, including a potential mortgage. If you’re spending much more than that, you likely will not qualify for a mortgage. If you’re thinking of buying a home, this might be a good time to pay down some debt.

Get Pre-Approved

Getting pre-approved is a proactive step that homebuying hopefuls can take now. As opposed to getting pre-qualified, pre-approval gives you a more accurate idea of how much a bank is likely able to loan you—although it’s still not a commitment to lend.

Pre-approval is a boon for homebuyers, because potential sellers will have confidence in your ability to pay quickly. It also helps buyers shop within their means so they don’t get excited about a home that’s out of their price range.

Figure Out How Much You’re Willing to Spend Every Month

Once you figure out how much banks may lend you, you’ll have to figure out how much you’re willing to borrow. This is a chance to think about how many payments you’re making every month.

Sure, there are credit card bills, maybe car payments, but you’ve also got to keep the fridge stocked. Maybe you pay for a streaming service like Hulu. Maybe you have a donation membership with a nonprofit. Add up all those odds and ends, and then figure out how much more you can roll into that budget. Remember, it’s not just the mortgage you’ll be paying for—your utilities bill may increase, and your new neighborhood could include HOA fees. And, of course, you’ll also have to factor in home maintenance and improvements.

What are your financial goals this year? Are you on the verge of a big purchase, or saving up for 2020 and beyond instead? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share any thoughts!

“ Mario provided excellent service. Not only was he professional and helpful, but the personal support and reliability was something hard to find these days. I will not be using anyone else and have confidently referred him to friends and family.”

- Heather C.

“Darci, Mark and their team of professionals made the purchase for our amazing buyers absolutely seamless. The level of service they provide is second to none! They delivered the best rate and the best terms for the clients. Mark and Darci are very transparent with their fees and have a stellar reputation in the community. I highly recommend Darci and Mark for all your mortgage needs!”

- Gabby G.

“Laura Hertz is the best lender I've ever worked with in my 25 years as a Realtor. I never have to worry that she has things handles and she always performs in the best way possible. I also know that she is an advocate for my buyers and not only does she meet their expectations but she exceeds them! She is my lender for life!”

- Paula K.

“ My experience is always fantastic & seamless. Mayen Grigorian is a true professional. He’s honest, he goes above and beyond, he’s efficient, always available and knowledgeable. I never have to call for updates he beats me to it and sends updates regarding the loan. Our clients are very happy and we’re very happy! Five star service, I can’t say enough good things about Mayen as a person and a professional. Hands down! He’s The Best!”

- Taline S.

“Faye helped me purchase my first home last year. She was very professional and worked very quickly to help me procure financing. She made herself available around my schedule and took the time to explain my options for financing to help me get the lowest rate possible. Would highly recommend her to anyone looking for someone that is professional, highly knowledgeable, polite, and responsive.”

- James Z.

“Mark, Darci & Co were wonderful to work with! They were responsive, managed a complex buying situation with ease, incredibly communicative and always ensured I was caught up with what was going on and where I was in the process. Heavily recommend!”

- Zach J.

“This review is about Mark and Darci Richardson from CSMC Mortage in Simi Valley. This team is the BEST! For the past 12 years our home was "underwater" due to the "crash" in 2007, and unable to do anything with the mortgage except pay it. These two kept on top of things and finally the house qualified to REFI. We just completed everything and it closed last week... and they saved us over $900 a month!! That's a huge savings for a couple of senior citizens! We are SO happy now and finally can breathe. Thanks to Mark and Darci and CSMC Mortgage for following through, jumping through all the hoops necessary and helping us out! I can't recommend them more... they are the BEST!!!”

- Shari S.

“CSMC is always our go to lender. Denise Bizzy is fabulous. She really went the extra mile trouble shooting solutions to problems our client had. I do not believe another lender would have been able to pull this off. Five stars for the A+ service from Denise Bizzy and CSMC Mortgage!”

- Mark L.