Given the recent volatility in stocks and worries about the economy, predicting what the new year will bring is no easy task. But there are some steps you can take so that your personal finances will be more secure.

If you’ve made a money-related resolution for 2019, take some time to make it smart: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and timely. SMART goals can help you reach your objectives.

For example, your goal might be to buy a car. A SMART version of that goal would be more strategic, says Danielle Seurkamp, director of financial planning at The Asset Advisory Group in Cincinnati. You could aim to save $15,000 to buy a used Prius in three years, she says.

There's plenty more you can do this month to organize your financial life for a better year ahead. 

Save More for Retirement

This year you can save more in your workplace 401(k) retirement savings account. The maximum contribution has increased from $18,500 in 2018 to $19,000, so consider increasing the amount you are contributing, making sure you’re saving at least enough to get your employer match.

Remember that even the most generous matching policy won’t be enough to fully fund your retirement, so it's always a good idea to save as much as possible.  

If you don’t have a match or a 401(k) plan, set up a recurring auto-deposit into a Roth IRA. In 2019 you can contribute up to $6,000, assuming you meet the income requirements (less than $120,000 a year if you’re single, or $189,000 a year if you’re married). 

If you’re able, you can contribute to both a 401(k) and a Roth IRA for a grand total of $25,000 saved for retirement. 

Reduce Investment Fees

The beginning of the year is a good time to review the fees you're paying on your investment accounts.

Fees aren't always easy to notice since they're deducted from your return, but they can make a big difference in the long run, Seurkamp says.

She recommends that consumers make a list of the mutual funds that they have in their 401(k)s and then call their broker to ask what the fee is or look up the "fee load" for each fund's ticker symbol on Morningstar. 

When searching for the fees you're paying, another term to look out for is "expense ratio," which is the annual ongoing fee charged to administer and run the mutual fund. 

It's worth noting that last year, both Fidelity and Vanguard launched zero-fee mutual funds. 

Consider Rebalancing Your Portfolio

A typical rule of thumb when it comes to how you balance your investments is to subtract your age from 100. If you follow this advice, a 40 year old would have 60 percent of his investments in stocks and 40 percent in bonds. 

But while that might be a good starting point for investors, knowing what type of risk you're willing to take is really the most important consideration, says Seurkamp. If huge market swings, like the ones we had in December, make your stomach turn, you may want to go with a more conservative investing approach.

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Whatever the allocation you choose, it will change over time as values of stocks and bonds rise and fall.

To bring your portfolio back into balance, you may need to shift money from your winning investments into those that are lagging. That will probably require you to take profits in your highest-flying stock funds, which could be a timely move. 

You should also make sure that you're well diversified, with your stock investments in large and small U.S. and international companies, emerging markets, and real estate, Seurkamp says.

Shift to a Higher-Interest Bank Account

Interest rates have been rising, and that's likely to continue this year. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise rates twice in 2019. 

That means you might be able to get a higher return on your cash simply by shifting it out of your bank to another account offering higher savings rates. 

Online banks and credit unions currently offer significantly higher interest rates than many big national banks. So do some smaller banks.

Another option is to invest in a CD, which may offer even higher returns. But Seurkamp reminds consumers that if they do that, their money will be locked in for a set period of time.

Use Your Flexible Spending Account

Typically, flexible spending accounts, such as those associated with a healthcare plan at work, are use-it-or-lose it dollars. You set aside a certain amount of pretax money to spend on qualifying medical expenses not covered by your health insurance.

In 2019 you'll be able to put away $50 more than last year, for a total of $2,700 pretax dollars. If you’re in the 24 percent tax bracket, you’ll avoid $648 per year in taxes if you put away the maximum amount. You can estimate your savings with this calculator offered by WageWorks. 

It's important to understand, though, that if you don't use the funds by the end of the plan year, you could lose them. Some plans offer a grace period of two and a half months, Seurkamp says.

Stick to a Budget

Creating a budget is much easier than sticking to a budget, and as a result many attempts at curbing spending fall flat. Set yourself up for success by adding a budget to your financial to-do list this month.

Consumers across all income levels struggle with spending more than they earn. Over one-fifth of adults aren't able to pay all of their current month’s bills in full, according to the Federal Reserve's Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017.

Start by listing your fixed expenses, as well as your monthly after-tax income. Subtract the recurring bills you have (such as your mortgage and car payments) from your income to figure out how much you have left over for variable spending. You can even take it a step further by dividing that amount by four. That’s how much you or your family can afford to spend on a weekly basis.

If it’s clear that the amount you have for spending isn’t enough to keep you afloat, then you have to do more than just set a budget. It might be time to ask for a raise, look for a new job, or add a side hustle to cover your expenses.

If none of those options are feasible, then consider decreasing your fixed monthly expenses. Downsizing your home or your car may not be desirable, but if you’ve been struggling lately, you might be surprised at how much of a relief it is to cut those expensive recurring payments.

Consider Professional Financial Advice

A financial adviser can help you make sure your finances on track and being managed correctly. But remember that not all financial advisers are created equal.

There are two types: Those who are required to give advice that is in your best interest, and those who are held to a less rigorous standard of being required to recommend “suitable” products and strategies. The former is called a fiduciary and is the preferable way to go to avoid potential conflicts of interest. 

An adviser adhering to a fiduciary standard would recommend, say, investing in low-cost mutual funds for a fixed fee instead of comparable funds that charge more in commissions. He or she would have to promise no hidden fees that might surprise you later.

It’s always wise to ask a prospective adviser—or even your current one—for written confirmation that he or she will act as your fiduciary. If an adviser can’t assure you that he or she is a fiduciary, find one who can. 

Buy Items on Deep Discount in January

Between post-holiday shopping fatigue and winter weather woes, heading to the store may not be high on your priority list. But for those willing to make the trip, January can be a good time to buy products on deep discount.

Fitness fanatics and couch potatoes will find deals on products including exercise equipment and televisions. Bargain-hunters can stock up on bedding, winter clothing, and holiday décor as stores clear out inventory to make room for new items. If it’s a purchase you were planning to make anyway, it’s worthwhile to buy while it’s on sale. Want to know what’s on sale the rest of the year? Check our calendar of deals.