We’re heading toward 2020, the 20th anniversary of Y2K. The collapse of the world that did not happen.

The reason for all of the concern was a lack of memory in all of the computers that run the world. Today, cell phones have more memory than many full-sized computers of yesteryear. Twenty years ago also was the start of the new century.

The Dow Jones index at the beginning of January 2000 was 11,497. Today, it is over 28,000! It was not a smooth ride, however. The first 10 years were known as the lost decade. It took 12 years for the Standard & Poor’s 500 to recoup all of the losses it suffered from two major market crashes. People who were unfortunate to retire at that time were crushed by sequence of returns.

As bad as it was then, if history were to repeat itself, things would probably be worse today. Because Baby Boomers are the first generation in which many people do not have company-sponsored pensions, things could be worse.

The stock market has been on a record upward trend since then. It will not last forever. Whether it happens next week or next year, it will someday. Stocks offer the best long-term returns, but it could ruin a retirement if you are not properly positioned.

Most people do not have a written financial plan. Those who do usually handle crisis in a better way. Many people do not do proactive tax planning and have the majority of their savings in the wrong kinds of accounts. Legacy planning has to start with the surviving spouse.

A decision about when to start receiving Social Security benefits could cause problems decades later. You also must consider the size of your qualified accounts when determining the best course for your family. Health-care costs continue to rise and are often the biggest impediment to when you can retire. All aspects of your financial life need to be coordinated.

The good news is we are going to provide help in this column starting in January. Each week, we will discuss a different area. We will give information to empower you to make good choices for your family. If you desire to do so, you can enjoy a less stressful life next year.

Many people make New Year resolutions, but don’t keep them very long. If you do not like the current condition of your financial life, you must take different actions than you are taking now. Some changes happen faster than others. Let’s enter 2020 with clear vision and make it the best for your family. Invite your friends along for the journey.

Happy New Year and a prosperous 2020.

Gary Boatman is a Monessen-based certified financial planner and the author of “Your Financial Compass: Safe passage through the turbulent waters of taxes, income planning and market volatility.”

To submit columns on financial planning or investing, email Rick Shrum at rshrum@observer-reporter.com.

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