5 Smart Money Resolutions to Make
Skip the new gym membership and vow to get in better financial shape in 2016
Many people who make New Year’s resolutions pledge to get in better shape or slim their waistline. But getting in better financial shape or slimming your spending can improve your fiscal health in ways that can pay off for years to come.
Depending on your personal financial situation, making at least one of these resolutions could help make you fat with cash by this time next year.
Create a budget. Forbes writer Kate Ashford suggests resolving to make a budget — a no-brainer place to start if you don’t already have one, and an easy goal to achieve considering the tools that exist out there to help you do it. (Check out these budget-making apps, for example.) The first step in making a budget is figuring out where your money is currently going. You’ll probably be surprised once you crunch the numbers how much cash is going toward take-out food, clothes or other indulgences. Identifying a problem is the first step toward solving it.
Start a rainy day fund if you don’t already have one. Who knows what the New Year will bring. Along with whatever good fortune floats your way, you may need to deal with repairing the roof, buying a new furnace or weathering a job loss. Most financial experts advise saving up at least three to six months of living expenses. Decide how much you’ll need to put aside each month in order to get there, then open a separate account to funnel it into. Michael J. Garry, a certified financial planner with Yardley Wealth Management in Newtown, Pennsylvania, suggests opening a money market account at your bank, linked to your regular checking account.
Related: How to Create a Rainy-Day Fund
Open a 401K if you don’t already have one. If your employer offers a 401K and you’re not enrolled in it, correct that mistake in the new year or before. Unlike other money you may sock away, the money you put toward your 401K comes out of your paycheck before taxes, so you’ll lower your official income — and therefore your tax bill — while saving for the future. (You’ll pay taxes on the money in your 401K when you withdraw from it, but chances are you’ll be retired then and your tax rate will be much lower.) Many employers will match a portion of your contributions, such as $1 for every $1 you contribute, up to a certain percentage of your salary. That, notes Michael Terry, a certified financial planner in Maspeth, New York, is “free money.”
Rebalance your portfolio. Different types of investments — such as stocks vs. bonds, domestic vs. international holdings — perform better or worse in different economic climates. Over time, if you don’t sell of some of the winners, you could end up with a portfolio that’s out of whack compared to how you want your assets allocated. If you don’t know much about asset allocation or portfolio rebalancing, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissions offers some basics here. Morningstar offers a nice explanation here. Don’t forget to rebalance your 401K and your IRA, too.
Pay down your credit card debt. According to a Fidelity survey, twice as many people are resolving to pay off credit card debt this year compared to last year. Check out Fidelity’s “Four ways to get out of credit card debt” article to get started. Their first tip? Negotiate with your credit card company for a lower rate. Also check out SafeBee’s article on 7 ways to shrink your credit card debt. Our first tip? Start buying things with cash instead of credit. You’ll think twice if purchasing something involves forking over actual greenbacks. Also, consider a non-profit credit counseling service if you think you need one.
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