4 Paths to Smooth Your Financial Transitions in 2015

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Let's be honest. Although we all have a set list of resolutions we're hoping to tackle in the new year, chances are either way you and your family are facing some sort of change or transition. Whether it's moving from two incomes to one, relocating, adding a member of the family, coping with the loss of a family member, losing income, getting a new job, making a major purchase, (and the list goes on), these events will likely command a large majority of your focus and energy physically, emotionally and financially.

As expected, handling these kind of life transitions can bring on anxiety and stress for anyone. Below are four steps to handling the financial change.

1. Communicate

Not too many people are a fan of change. Although exciting and full of possibility, it can still be stressful. The first and best thing you can do for you finances during this time is communicate. Setting up monthly money dates is a great place to start. Whether it's talking to your spouse, a trusted family member or friend, addressing the issues and feelings at hand can help to alleviate the anxiety that comes with transition.

It's important to take time to craft your own opinion on topics and then come together for a conversation. Some key questions to ask when contemplating decisions and change are:
  • Why is this important to you?
  • Would you prioritize "A" or "B" first? Why do you feel that way?
  • What do you think makes the most sense for me/us financially?
  • If we were to work toward "A" or "B" first, at what point would you feel secure in refocusing on the next goal?
2. Prioritize

When contemplating multiple goals, determine which is the most important and/or makes the most sense to tackle first.

For many, there are goals of debt pay down, saving for the future, upgrading the family car, taking that big vacation and more. Selecting one or two items to conquer first will set you up to meet the remaining goals successfully.

3. Get a Head Start

The early bird gets the worm for a reason. The amount of planning you do will likely assist with the amount of success you have in tackling your goals. If you're looking to make a career change, start by researching the positions you're interested in and rerun your household budget to coincide with any changes in income you expect. What areas will you have to adjust or cut back? If you want to make a move, look not only at the houses in your ideal area, but also the cost of items such as food, gas and utilities.

Ask as many questions as needed until you feel comfortable with the information you have and the moves you're making. Putting the time in to prepare and do research early for any kind of financial transition you're making will keep stress levels lower and prevent you from scrambling.

4. Have a Plan

It's true that your plan may not work out as you see fit, but having something in place will give you a starting point.

2015 may not be the year you wipe out your consumer debt in full, but it can be the year that you make a large dent. It can also be the year that you save that first $1,000 into your emergency fund in case your car breaks down or that you set up a Roth IRA or begin to contribute at least the minimum to your company 401(k) to take advantage of your employer match. Saying you want to meet your goals is one thing, but having a strategy in place with numbers attached is another. When you bring the numbers into the picture, not only can you measure progress, but you can also have a clear point to adjust from when you're faced with life's transitions. Having clarity around income, savings, spending, and goals will help to soften the impact that any unforeseen wrenches can throw into your financial plan.

Mary Beth Storjohannis a certified financial planner and money coach. She created Nine Steps to Workable Wealthto help you make smart choices with your money.
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