What Personal Finance Resolutions are You Making? We Have a Few Suggestions.
Happy New Year! Many of us use this time of year to examine our lives and make changes for the positive. Whether we adopt new workout regimens, resolutions are a great way to start the year off right. If you've begun this year resolving to take your financial health more seriously, we have a few resolutions for you to embrace.
Make a Budget You Can Stick to All Year
Much like the crash diet, it's nearly impossible to stay within a budget that is unreasonably austere. To create a manageable budget, start by reviewing your current spending habits (in what areas do you spend your money and how much do you spend). After you've familiarized yourself with your spending habits, make a decision about how much you think is sensible to spend in each area each month. For instance, if you pay for six different streaming services, but think you could cut back to four, start making calls to cancel. Review your cellular, utility and internet charges and see if bundling (or unbundling) can you reduce your monthly expenses. These small changes can make a big difference.
Build an Emergency Fund
According to a recent survey, less than 40% of American’s have enough savings to cover a $1000 emergency. If you're concerned about your ability to handle unplanned expenses, one of the most beneficial New Year's resolutions you can make this year is to begin building an emergency fund. This type of savings is a cornerstone of financial safety, protecting you on those rainy days. Many experts recommend that an emergency fund hold three to 6 months of take-home salary, but if you're just starting out this could be a challenge. A month or two's salary by year's end may be a more modest and attainable goal.
Know Your Credit Score (and Improve It if Need Be)
Since your credit score can impact a number of purchases in your present and future, knowing what that score is exactly is an important step in taking control of your finances. Three different agencies - Experian, TransUnion and Equifax - all maintain a credit score for you. While these scores are often similar, they could potentially vary, so it's a good idea to know all three. Luckily, you can check your score with each of these agencies once a year without negatively affecting your credit score.
If your scores aren't where you want them to be, don't fret. You can improve them over time. Pay your bills on time, maintain good standing with your creditors and continue to establish your credit. All of these and more will help your score rise. If you need some extra incentive, consider this: according to myFICO, over the course of a 30-year home mortgage, there is an $122,903 difference between a credit score of 750 and a credit score of 630.
Create an "In Case Something Happens to Me" Document or Notebook
In it list the important documents that your executor or beneficiaries might need and where to find them. Also list accounts (or include a copy of statements), safe deposit boxes, email addresses, and even social media sites that will need to be closed.
Sort Your Documents Into Three Groups, then Review and Process
Getting your financial house in order means taking care of your accounts, documents and finances today...so that they will be ready for the future. Here are some easy ideas for getting your finances in order and help you get organized.
- Many of us are now going paperless and receiving most bills and statements via email. We’re off to a good start on reducing clutter and being more eco-friendly.
Items to File, Recycle or Shred
- Stay with each item until you process it appropriately, whether that means recycling, shredding or filing it.
- If you still have paper copies of older documents, scan important items that you want to save and file them on your computer.
- Shred documents that might interest dumpster-diving thieves, such as credit card offers or those with personal or financial information. Don't have a shredder? You can often find free events with professional shredding services. Search for community events online, ask your bank or credit union, or contact a local shredder and ask about upcoming events.
- Create a safe place for important documents such as insurance policies, wills, tax returns, investment accounts, mortgage papers, passports, and even the title to your automobile. Office supply stores and other places sell fire-safe, locking boxes -- or even safes -- to store these items.
- Inform the person who will be responsible if something happens to you where you keep these documents, including file locations on your computer. While it is generally not advisable to share your passwords, it may be a good idea to make sure that a trusted person knows how to access documents in the event of an emergency.
Secure a Life Insurance Policy
Owning a life insurance policy can be another critical step in helping to secure your financial future. If you have family or assets to protect, life insurance can help ensure that they will not be financially burdened if something were to happen to you. A life insurance policy can help pay off a mortgage, cover college tuition expenses, pay for day care and more. This type of financial assistance can be critical in a household that has lost half its income. What's more, life insurance is typically affordable. To find a policy and a rate that fit your needs, you can get started today by requesting a free quote.
By making (and keeping) a few of your resolutions this year, you can set yourself up for a bright financial future. We hope that the upcoming year is as successful as it is joyful for you and yours.