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As we inch closer to the fourth quarter, cooler weather, holidays and plans for the year ahead are slowly coming into view. As you start preparing for 2019, make sure that securing your financial future is at the top of your to-do list. An important part of that preparation is evaluating your savings and retirement plans. Whether you are well on your way to retirement readiness or have not yet started saving, there are things you can do right now to prepare for the future, however close or far that may be. Here are four places to start.

Understand your personal cash flow.

One cup of coffee here, one lunch at the local café there, and suddenly you are way past your budget for the month. What happened? We’re all guilty of being a little too cavalier with cash flow at times, and these habits add up. In addition to committing to brewing coffee at home and making lunch the night before, consider this: those lattes and gourmet salads you’re skipping today could be hammocks by the beach come retirement.

For many, the end of the year brings spending habits outside the norm, between preparing for the holidays and the changing weather. Before you start stocking up for the holidays, spend a few weeks meticulously monitoring your spending. Keep every receipt, even if it’s just for a pack of gum, and remember to print receipts for anything purchased online. Once you have collected a few weeks’ worth of receipts, spread them out and analyze what you spent where. What was essential, such as groceries, car maintenance and utilities? What could you do without next month? Get an idea of your personal cash flow during a regular month and tweak your budget accordingly, sending what would have been excess spending into your savings and retirement accounts.

Set your retirement savings goals for next year.

Getting a jump start on the year ahead means knowing what you hope to achieve by the time 2019 comes to a close. If you haven’t started saving for retirement, make sure that enrolling in your company’s 401k plan is at the top of your list. You can start by learning when open enrollment begins and determining how much you can contribute, aiming for your company’s maximum match which is usually around 2% or 3%.

If you are already actively saving toward retirement, this is a good time to consider increasing your contribution to meet your savings goals. Increasing by just 1% next year can make a big difference as you continue saving for retirement. Remember to include any increase in your personal budget and adjust where needed.

Build and maintain your rainy day fund.

If you were to get two flat tires tomorrow, could you comfortably pay to have them repaired or replaced? How about the stove or refrigerator? If these hypothetical repairs are giving you pause, you might want to consider increasing your rainy day fund. If you don’t already have one, now is the time to get started. A rainy day fund is generally a couple months of your salary saved in case of emergency.

Beyond the ability to make urgent repairs or take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, maintaining a rainy day fund (sometimes called a safety net or emergency fund) can also allow you to diversify your retirement investments. If you are interested in exploring higher risk portfolios or investments in startups, knowing that you have savings to fall back on can help you feel more confident. First and foremost, you should talk to your financial adviser before making drastic changes on your own. Which leads us to our final tips for getting your savings and retirement plans into shape for 2019.

Meet with your financial adviser before year’s end.

Even if you stay on top of all of your savings and investment plans throughout the year, spending some time with your financial adviser before ringing in 2019 is a good idea. Your adviser can help you discover new ways to save for retirement, explain any changes in state or national policy and find creative ways to diversify your investments. And if you’re wondering whether you saved enough this year or should be further along in your savings and retirement plans, they can help you adjust your savings strategy for next year.

A stroll down the aisles of your local home goods store will reveal mountains of autumnal décor and, dare we say it, the occasional holiday accent. It’s a sure sign that another year is on its way, and new opportunities to save for retirement abound. Visit our FutureTrack blog for more tips on saving for retirement, then schedule your complimentary planning session to help get your savings and retirement plans on track.

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