With the year ending, many of us begin thinking about what we want to accomplish next year and in the long term. For some it is committing to a healthier diet, getting more exercise, spending more time with family, going on more adventures or saving more in the future.
There are simple strategies to think about planning for financial resolutions. Here are seven ways to get there.
1. Save more for retirement
If you are already saving for retirement, try to increase the amount you put away each month. If you are not yet saving, now is the time to start. If your company has a 401(k) plan, that is a great way to save. Your money will be automatically withdrawn from your account before you get paid. This “forced savings plan” puts structure around your retirement plan. A Roth IRA is also a great way to save for those that do not have a 401(k) plan or want to add onto current savings methods. Using after-tax dollars to fund a Roth IRA allows the money to grow until retirement with no taxes being due when you begin withdrawing your savings after age 59 and a half.
2. Pay off credit card debt
Your goal should be to pay off credit card debt each month, as they have the highest interest rates of most consumer loans. Remember to always pay more than the minimum required and don’t take out more debt while you’re still paying off your current card(s). If you owe on more than one credit card, pay off the one with the highest interest rate first, then put your money toward the card with the next-highest interest rate until all your debt is paid.
3. Create an emergency fund
If you don’t have an emergency fund, make a 2022 goal to start building one. You should aim to have around six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account to get you through some “rainy days.” The economy is more precarious than usual right now, so building toward this goal can give you peace of mind if the unexpected happens.
4. Review your insurance
Insurance is a large but necessary expense in our lives — home, auto, health, life, and possibly disability insurance. Now is the time to make sure you are not over-insured or underinsured. Can you save by bundling your home and auto insurance with one carrier? Is your health plan right for you based on your age and current health status? Do you have enough life insurance for your spouse and children should tragedy strike?
5. Evaluate Your Income and Finances
In addition to saving more and spending less, trying to boost your income is also beneficial. Searching for a higher paying job, seeking employment with better benefits, reducing or eliminating commuting costs, or moving to an area with a lower cost of living can all have a substantial, positive impact on your finances. Look to generate alternative income streams, such as freelance work, side hustles, and passive income (real estate rentals and/or dividend paying stocks) to create financial flexibility.
6. Improve your Credit Score
Check your credit report for errors, pay your bills on time, and keep your “credit utilization” under 30%. Credit utilization is the amount of debt outstanding on your revolving credit sources, like credit cards or home equity lines, as a percentage of your available credit. Also, open a credit card if you do not have one but use it wisely. By sticking to this plan, your credit score should improve over time.
7. Improve your fitness level
Physical health can lead to financial health. Money and the economy are one of the biggest sources of stress at almost every income level. Making small, but effective changes to eat better (cooking at home is healthier and cheaper), increase exercise and focus on what is important can lead to feeling better and making smarter financial decisions over the long-term.
The key is consistency. By sticking with these seven simple strategies, you should achieve financial success over time.
By Raymond J. McCaffery
Reprinted from the Mercury