The new year is here, and your New Year's resolutions are probably well underway. While most people set annual goals to become more physically fit, it is also important to consider your financial fitness going into the new year. If your finances are not where you want them to be, or maybe they need a little tune-up, the six tips below will help you move toward achieving financial fitness goals.
1. Trim the Fat
One of the first steps toward a healthier financial future is spending less. If you make time to take a realistic look at your budget, odds are you can find some excess that you can easily trim off without feeling a pinch. Start with your non-essentials, such as cable and streaming services. Do you really need all those movie and TV choices? When was the last time you shopped around to compare prices? Next, delve into spending items such as clothing, groceries, and entertainment, and see if smart shopping or more date nights at home can help free up some extra money each month. Then, look at your utility bills and find ways to reduce them. Disciplining yourself to follow good energy-saving tips to reduce the overall cost of your energy bills.
2. Tone Up Your Debt
Odds are, the holidays have increased your credit card bills. Do not let that debt snowball higher than it needs to by accruing interest. Start with your highest interest rate card, and set a larger payment in your budget to begin lessening that total. Once it is paid off, use that same payment to start tackling your next high-interest debt, and so on. A critical part to remember is that when paying only your minimum payment, it can take you 10 years and a significant amount of interest to pay off your card, so always pay something more than the minimum.
3. Whip Your Credit into Shape
Your credit score can affect many aspects of your financial life. Whether you are looking to buy a house or car or to take out a loan to start a business, your credit score will be used to determine how much interest you will pay and how likely you are to even get those funds. Unfortunately, many people neglect their scores until they need them and, at that point, it can be difficult to improve quickly. Keep your credit card balance far from the limits, be sure to make payments on time, and monitor your score for negative marks.
4. Load Up on Savings
Once you have trimmed the fat off your budget, you will want to put some of that into savings. One goal to start immediately is creating an emergency fund of 3 to 6 times your monthly cash needs. Surprise repairs, medical bills, and layoffs can damage your financial health if you must go into debt to cover them. Having this fund available for these times can lessen the blow and help you stay on top of your bills so you do not fall behind.
5. Put Retirement Savings in Your Routine
Saving for retirement is critical to your future. Many people do not save enough for their retirement or wait so long that they stress their budget to meet their goals. Make it a point this year to take advantage of 401K savings at work, which is one of the most painless ways to save for retirement. Any employer contribution to your 401K makes the process even sweeter. Start now and give those funds as much time to grow as possible.
6. Start a New Investing Routine
Investing is the quickest way to grow your wealth, but many people are afraid to enter the world of investing because they are afraid of losing money. A downward turn in investment value in the short run is certainly a possibility. But historical data show that money invested in good quality stocks and mutual funds has always increased in value over the long run. Another misconception is that investing takes a lot of money. The truth is that you can begin your investment journey with as little as $100. Start small so you can get the hang of it, and if you have more money to invest, consider meeting with a financial advisor who can help you pick a mix of funds based on your risk tolerance.
Healthy finances are like healthy bodies: they are made with small, consistent, wise decisions. Contact your fee-only financial planner for support and advice on working toward a secure financial future.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.