6 Financially Smart Ways to Start 2024

Nov 30, 2023

Heading into 2024, it’s time to take stock of your budget, debt and investments—and check them against your financial goals. These six steps can get you started.

Key Takeaways

  • Revisiting your finances at the beginning of the year can allow you to establish a clear plan and meet your long-term financial goals.   
  • Several useful strategies include reviewing your budget, checking on your emergency fund and consolidating debt.
  • Also, it can be helpful to check whether you’re tracking toward other goals, such as saving and investing for a comfortable retirement.


Revisiting your finances at the start of a new year may not seem as exciting as making other resolutions, such as exercising more, eating healthier or taking steps to reduce stress in your life, but it’s important to remember that your financial wellness is often closely connected to your physical and mental health.1


The good news: Improving your financial wellbeing might be easier than you think. Here are six simple steps you can take to help set yourself up for financial success in 2024 and beyond. 

  1. 1
    Revisit Your Household Budget

    Start the year by revisiting your budget. Assess your average monthly income, as well as your fixed and variable expenses, and determine your financial priorities for 2024 to develop the ideal budget for you. Reassessing your budget may be especially valuable now, as still-high inflation requires households to continue allocating more for essentials like groceries or gas. 


    Having trouble getting started? Morgan Stanley’s financial management tools, available on Morgan Stanley Online, can help you track income and expenses and create custom budgets to optimize how you put your money to work. 

  2. 2
    Check Your Emergency Fund

    It’s always a good idea to double-check that you have adequate funds set aside for a rainy day—but that’s especially true in times when the economy may be slowing from its once robust pace. Economic growth unexpectedly surged in 2023, with GDP expanding at a robust 4.9% seasonally- and inflation-adjusted annual rate in the third quarter. However, Morgan Stanley Research’s economics team sees growth slowing from here. They forecast year-over-year U.S. GDP growth to moderate to an annual rate of 1.9% in 2024.2


    Particularly in an uncertain economy, an emergency fund can help keep you financially afloat in unforeseen life circumstances, such as a change in your or a loved one’s employment situation. A general rule-of-thumb for an emergency fund is saving three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a safe, liquid account. 

  3. 3
    Tackle Your Debt

    Even if you’re already good about managing debt, consider taking steps to help reduce and consolidate it further. For example, if you’re expecting a raise or year-end bonus, consider applying the extra income to any balances with high interest rates.


    Then, think about consolidating any remaining debt, which may help you swap varying interest rates on multiple loans, credit lines or cards for a potentially lower rate on a single loan. Reducing the number of loans you carry can also help simplify your financial life and ease money stress. You may want to ask your Financial Advisor about possible strategies. 

  4. 4
    Make Sure You’re on Track with Your Goals

    Be sure to check whether you’re still tracking toward your goals, such as saving and investing for a comfortable retirement. If recent changes in the market or other factors have temporarily thrown you off course, work with your Financial Advisor to figure out how you can get back on the right path.


    Or, if you’re still on track with your goals, talk with your Financial Advisor about new goals you want to work toward. For example, in 2023, were you able to boost your contributions to a workplace retirement plan or individual retirement account? In 2024, can you contribute even more to these or other accounts? Your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor can help you look holistically at the year ahead and assess your progress towards your goals.

  5. 5
    Revisit Your Asset Allocation

    Think about revisiting your asset allocation, or how your investments are split within your portfolio amongst equities, fixed income and cash. Asset allocation in your portfolio should ideally reflect your various life stages and the saving goals associated with them.


    For example, as you near retirement, you may consider moving portions of your portfolio into a more conservative asset allocation like fixed income. Or, if recent gains or losses in financial markets have caused your portfolio investments to stray away from your target allocation it may be time to rebalance.


    Remember, as you near retirement age, you have less of an ability to absorb volatility from the stock market. 

  6. 6
    Update Your Estate and Insurance Plans

    The new year can also be a good time to review and consider:


    • Creating or updating your estate plan: If you don’t have an estate plan consisting of a Last Will and Testament, power of attorney or health care proxy in place, consider completing your estate plan a priority matter for this coming year. An estate plan ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.  
    • Updating and reviewing any life insurance policies: Make sure there’s sufficient coverage for your family’s current financial needs. If your current employer doesn’t offer an insurance policy, you may want to purchase your own insurance policy. If you currently have life insurance, its crucial to access and optimize your coverage to safeguard your wealth, livelihood and loved ones effectively. If your net worth has grown or if there have been changes in your liabilities, now is an opportune moment to ensure that your coverage aligns with your increased needs and provides comprehensive protection.


    By February 1st, many of us have lost track of our resolutions. To make sure that doesn’t happen in 2024, be sure to connect with your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor to discuss your financial goals for the year ahead and beyond.

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