Personal Finance

Our guide to getting your finances back on track

You lost a good job but are back working, although at a pay cut. Your spouse is still looking.

You hung onto the house, but it’s worth less. Your cars are 10 years old.

Savings? To get by the last five years or so, you depleted your emergency funds and cracked wide open your retirement nest egg.

In a poll last fall by Bankrate, seven in 10 Americans said other financial responsibilities were making it impossible to reach the goals they had set for monthly retirement savings. A third said that while they were putting some money away, they knew it wasn’t enough. A third weren’t saving anything at all.

But finally, the clamp the recession put on family finances is easing. And many people know that will give them an opportunity to begin rebuilding their retirement savings. They know they don’t want to rely solely on Social Security in their retirement.

Yes, saving more this year is not going to be easy.

The economy is still as slow as molasses. Jobs are still hard to come by. Incomes are still growing slowly.

We’re still adjusting our pocketbooks to the end of the payroll tax holiday or other tax increases. Many may still need to pay down debts instead of boosting their savings.

The behemoth banks and financial markets are still hard to trust. Every week or so there’s some sort of stock market mini-scandal or breakdown.

Despite the headwinds, 2013 is a turn in the road for savers and investors.The housing market has improved, offering more people the opportunity to buy a house to build equity. Or sell one and rent instead, pouring the difference into savings.

People will also have to begin adapting their finances for the coming implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

But most importantly for people wanting to repair their retirement accounts, in 2013 signs are that the U.S. economy will finally break through the speed limit that’s been holding it back.

That strengthening will in itself give a boost to investors. Combine that with savers and investors tiring of low yields in bonds and on CDs — a huge chunk of 5-year CDs taken out before the recession come due this year — and many market watchers are predicting what they call a “great rotation” out of bonds and into equities.

So here’s betting that the stock markets will be better this year than last. Just last week, the markets touched new highs.

Of course, which road to you take to fix your savings depends on the usual mix of savings and investment strategies, life factors and risk tolerance. The financial terrain is still often bewildering. That’s why the Star is offering this special section today to help you punch new coordinates into your personal savings GPS.

You can’t afford not to get back on the road to recovery.