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What you need to know to get your finances right in 2017

The 2017 Year on The Calculator And Ballpoint Pen On White Background

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You can decide to take control of your finances at any time, but people seem to be more open to changing their ways at the beginning of a new year. So let's dive right into a briefing designed to help you manage your money better and prepare you for what might be ahead in 2017.

To start, here are some encouraging words about managing your finances – you don't have to be perfect with money to get good results. Here's a list of 31 quick and dirty tips to get your finances in shape for 2017 and a list of five tips from Pattie Lovett-Reid, chief financial commentator at CTV. I really like the first one, which is about getting the big purchases in life right (houses, cars) and not worrying so much about small transactions like buying a coffee.

The money columnist at the New York Times, Ron Lieber, did this Q&A on getting ready for 2017. A fair bit of U.S.-specific content here, but still some useful thoughts for Canadians. This blog post is really useful – it explains how to set goals that are actually achievable.

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Tried budgeting to better control your spending, but it didn't work? Here's a list of 11 habits to help you budget better in the new year. To help you cool it on spending, check out this list of 10 things not to buy in 2017 and this blog post on what I'd call mindful spending. That means be conscious of your spending habits and deciding whether they're working for you. Here are some useful tips for cutting food waste. Also, my own list of costs that will drive inflation in 2017.

Fortune put together this list of the best ideas and biggest risks for investors in 2017, which takes a global perspective. Here's a list of risks to Canada's financial system. Bloomberg's Pessimist's Guide to 2017 is a fascinating read about how the global political and economic status quo might unravel. I'm a big fan of the annual Maclean's list of financial and economic charts that every Canadian should watch in the year ahead.

Contrarians will enjoy this list of 17 unpopular investing predictions for 2017 (one is that interest rates won't budge). Here's an argument that gold is the investment with the biggest turnaround potential in 2017. For Globe Unlimited subscribers, here's my list of seven portfolio dos and don'ts for 2017.

Finally, taxes – here's a list of income tax changes for 2017.

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Today's featured financial tool
Here's a new educational investing website for millennials. It's called TheAnswerIs, and it answers a lot of basic questions about how to get an investment portfolio started.

Here's a calculator that helps you figure out the best strategy for paying off a credit card balance that persists from month to month.

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Ask Rob
The question:
"I am a very conservative investor and my portfolio has been comprised mostly of GICs for a long time. In April 2016, my investment advisor persuaded me to sell some bond funds that weren't performing and put the proceeds and additional cash in other bond funds so that this portion is now 35 per cent of my portfolio. I am anxious about the recent performance and wonder what the medium- and long-term expectation is for these? Should I sell?"

My reply: Schedule a meeting with your adviser to address this issue. Your adviser should have a rationale for the bond funds chosen and be able to make a case of them. You can then decide how to proceed. My own sense is that bonds, and bond funds in turn, are going to face some challenges if interest rates keep moving up. For a couple of reasons, long-term investors (five years or more) should keep holding bonds, though. One is that bonds and bond funds are a good hedge against a stock market crash or recession. The other is that after a period of rising rates, we will see rates ease off again. That will be positive for bond funds.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

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Here are my four personal finance tips for 2017.

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About the Author
Personal Finance Columnist

Rob Carrick has been writing about personal finance, business and economics for close to 20 years. He joined The Globe and Mail in late 1996 as an investment reporter and has been personal finance columnist since November 1998.Rob's personal finance columns appear in The Globe on Tuesday and Thursday, and his Portfolio Strategy column for investors appears on Saturday. More

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