January may have a reputation as a long and dreary month (at least where I come from), but it has its redeeming qualities as well. In particular, what I like about the early goings of the year is the sense of a fresh start. I try to use it as a time to take a deliberate look at the year ahead in both a practical and philosophical way — a “sort and set course”-kind of way if you will.

I like the beginning of the year for this “activity” because, well, it tends to be a bit slow — everyone is just out of holiday mode and not quite geared up to full speed yet. Also, it turns out this is when a lot of “new” things take effect — new laws, new health insurance, new schemes for airline points, new tax rules — making it an ideal time to get caught up on topics that may have a real impact on your life going forward. Case in point, I just learned the other day that one of my go-to airlines is implementing an overhaul of the way it awards and redeems airline miles, as someone who spends a lot of time on airplanes, this will end up making a difference in how I book travel.

It being January, I also get a lot of e-newsletters with tips for how to make the most of the new year, in various ways. There are articles about how to communicate better with colleagues, how to be more efficient at work (and at home), how to take your hobby to the next level, and so on. Many of these I tend to ignore as they make me stressed more than anything, but some can serve as inspiration and be useful as a resource when thinking about the year ahead. One of these newsletters that I have (unexpectedly) come to really look forward to is from a financial advisor who works with expats.

The newsletter outlines what to think about regarding all things “expat-financial”. It may not be a breaking news kind of publication, but it serves as a useful reminder of what to be aware of. It suggests actions to take to strengthen financial health and shines a light on common expat financial issues. Number three on their list is where I’ll start this year: Set financial goals (again).

I feel like the “sort and set course”-exercise might be particularly useful for those of us living abroad because, as most globally mobile know, life can be pretty complicated when maintaining a life in two different places. There is family to think of and care for, maybe a house, friendships to nurture… So not only are there practical matters to deal with but a lot of expectations and desires to manage, and wills and wishes to take into consideration.

And I guess this is where the philosophical part of the exercise comes in. For me, it turns out that the beginning of the year is a good time to look at the bigger picture, to think about what has worked/not worked, and then try to piece together a plan that reflects both the practical realities and the philosophical discoveries I have made and then make some meaningful adjustments that can guide me just a little bit better going forward.

By: Felicia Shermis

Safety for the International Assignee