Maybe you’d rather forget 2021 — we get it.
But before getting too far into 2022, it’s a good idea to take stock of how your finances may have changed during the last 12 months and make any needed adjustments.
Here are five areas of your finances to check on so you don’t get any unpleasant surprises this year.
5 Financial Surprises (the Bad Kind) to Avoid in 2022
Missed Student Loan Payments
If you’ve been taking advantage of student loan forbearance since March 2020 — when all payments and interest on federally held student loans were suspended — it’s time to resurrect those payments.
Forbearance ends April 30, 2022, at which point you start owing and accruing interest on your student loans. Don’t delay reaching out to your student loan servicer.
If you’re on the standard repayment plan and are unable to make the payments, apply for an income-driven repayment plan, which could substantially reduce your monthly payments when the forbearance period ends. If you’re already on an income-driven plan, update your income to modify your monthly payment.
Overdraft fees are among the most criticized fees assessed by banks, since those who live paycheck to paycheck are the ones likely to accidentally overdraft.
The goods is that in 2021, a number of institutions eliminated their overdraft fees, including Ally Bank, Alliant Credit Union and Capital One.
Since the new year, Bank of America announced it’s slashing overdraft fees from $35 to $10 and intends to drop bounced check fees. Wells Fargo said that it will give customers 24 hours to make good on overdrafts, although it hasn’t budged on the $35 overdraft penalty.
What does that mean for you? If you’re banking at a place that’s socking you with fees, then maybe 2022 should be the year you find a new bank — here’s a rundown of those fee changes, plus a list of banks that don’t charge overdraft fees at all.
Social Security Changes
Whether you’re already retired or years away, Social Security affects your finances, and there are some major shakeups to the system this year.
For retirees, first some good news: Social Security payments are getting their biggest cost of living increase since 1982. But don’t expect a much fatter monthly check — most of that increase will be eaten up by rising Medicare premiums.
And if retirement is still in your future, you’ll have to wait longer to reach it — as of 2002, full retirement age is now 67 years old.
End to Child Tax Credits
If you’re a parent of a kid under 18, you likely received an extra monthly payment courtesy of the temporary child tax credit boost — but that source of extra income came to an end in 2021.
Starting in July 2021, parents who qualified received up to $250 a month for each child between 6 and 17, and up to $300 a month for each child younger than 6. The last payment was Dec. 15, and the remaining half of the credit — $1,500 to $1,800, depending on the child’s age — will be disbursed this year when parents file their taxes for 2021.
The only way to get the remaining half of the credit is to file your 2021 tax return — the earlier the better, if last year’s refund delays are any indication.
The quickest way to receive your additional child tax credit money is to file a return online. There are plenty of free tax filing software programs that simplify the process.
Credit Card Debt
Don’t let the ghost of credit card purchases past haunt you in 2022.
However, if you’re having problems making payments, you should reach out to your lender to ask them about assistance or hardship programs.
Start by looking for a customer service number on a copy of your bill for your mortgage, credit card, auto loan or other loan. When you call, have your account number and a clear explanation about why you’re unable to pay the bill. Be sure to ask about all your options as well as how your payments, balance, interest rate and credit score could be affected.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor.