Ready or not, the Christmas holidays are coming at us fast. When they’re over we’ll all be five pounds heavier and hundreds of dollars poorer.

Next up is the New Year. And, of course, that means resolutions. Since fitness is usually at the top of everyone’s list, January is always the time of the year when gyms are most crowded. But if we also lined up to see financial planners, it would mean that we also made financial fitness a top resolutions. That would be a good thing.

To help toward that goal a bunch of financial services companies are coming out with their own financial fitness resolutions.

TIAA, the former TIAA-CREF, says its surveys this year have led to three suggestions to help people meet their financial goals for the New Year.

Take advantage of free financial advice:

According to TIAA’s 2016 Advice Matters Survey, 35 percent of Americans who haven’t worked with a financial adviser don’t think they have enough money. Actually, there is no minimum amount of savings required to seek advice from many financial planners. The earlier you meet with an adviser, the better. Many employers offer free financial advice through workplace retirement plans.

Know how much money you need in retirement:

Many people underestimate how much money they will need when they retire. Sixty-three percent of Americans estimate they will need less than 75 percent of their current income to live comfortably, yet most experts recommend replacing 70 to 100 percent of your current income in retirement. It is critical to know how much money you will need to live comfortably in retirement. It’s also important to generate a guaranteed income stream that you can’t outlive.

Start with a good plan:

The earlier you start planning, the better. Ninety-seven percent of TIAA retirees who began planning before age 30 say they are satisfied with their retirement, according to the TIAA Voices of Experience Survey.

Dara Luber, senior manager of retirement at TD Ameritrade recommends that you consider these six year-end retirement saving strategies:

Increase 401(k) contributions by just 1 percent: It’s important to increase 401(k) contribution and consider saving the extra income before you get used to spending it. Saving just 1 percent more each year can have a big payoff long term.

Establish multiple streams of retirement income. Don’t stop at your 401(k). Consider additional investments to secure your financial future, such as IRAs, real estate and annuities.

Allocate a portion of your year-end bonus to your retirement. Many employers allow you to withhold the same percentage (or more) from your bonus as from your paycheck to contribute to your 401(k).

Revisit your goals and be sure you have a plan in place. Review your portfolio at least once a year to ensure your allocations still align with your needs.

Remember catch-up contributions. If you’re over 50, consider catch-up contributions to your 401(k). You’ll be saving for the future and setting yourself up for a sizable tax deduction.

Donate to a charity. ‘Tis the season after all. Contributions to IRS-qualified charities made before or on Dec. 31, 2016, can lead to tax deductions down the road.

Other news

Question of the week: 

Let’s help folks with year-end planning. If there is one year-end tip you’d give to people to get ready for retirement, what is it? Send comments to me at Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Year-end retirement tips.”

Last week’s question

Some financial planners say expenses in retirement are only 80 percent of what they are when you are working. Others say your expenses don’t go down at all. What is you experience?

Alan K. Homer of Portland wrote: 

While it certainly depends on your expected lifestyle and how it affects your spending habits, I believe that you can live comfortably on less than 80 percent of your end of career salary. The keys to being able to do so are as follows:

Be debt free – especially the fixed debts of mortgage, auto and education loans.
If you were saving 15 percent into a retirement account, you were already living on 85 percent of your salary.
You’ve saved 15 percent of your salary from all household earnings for at least 20 years.
Qualify for Medicare within three years of retiring.
No major medical issues that cause abnormally high expenses for medical treatment or prescriptions.
Qualify for Social Security within three years of retiring (whether you take it or delay).

Every person’s situation is different, planning and long-term perspective is key.

Gary Sullivan of Coconut Grove, Fla., wrote:

I retired about a year ago. In planning for retirement, I would read about the 80 percent but honestly paid no attention. I think planning ends and begins with a serious effort to anticipate risk-adjusted income and costs. When I got my arms around the numbers, I built a retirement budget with full knowledge that I would need to downsize my house and squeeze other expenses, coming out at 50 percent. So far it’s working out fine.

The key point is to force one’s thinking on an honest budget that accounts for travel, housing, medical costs, etc.  (Medicare costs will surprise most of your readers, I bet.)

One more thing: Advice to move to a low tax state is very wrong. I moved from Chicago to Miami. I pay no income tax here, but I am dismayed at the lack of investment in public transportation, schools, health care, the environment, etc.  Illinois has its own problems, but taxes pay for far superior public transportation, prairie restoration, world-class bike trails and other things that really make life a little fun — and certainly easier. If I get the sense that the dysfunctional Illinois legislature can straighten out its budget, I’ll be happy to move back and happily pay higher taxes if the money is well spent. In Florida, you would be saddened by Everglades destruction, transportation woes, poor health care, etc.

My most recent columns:

Michelle Singletary’s most recent columns: