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Well, 2018 is almost here, but if you're feeling blue about a bad fiscal year, there's still time to do better. Seriously, you can easily cross a few things off an outstanding financial checklist before Dec. 31.
Here are some last-minute 2017 money resolutions to make good on.
An effective place to start, especially if you're facing a big January bill. 'Tis the season for balance transfer credit cards, which let you move a high-interest balance onto a card with a 0% annual percentage rate for six to 21 months.
If you're not saddled with balances, you can minimize the cost of any future debts. Credit card companies are known to lower APRs when you ask them to — so long as your credit's good. And, if it's not, see if you can ...
There are two ways to do this on the (almost) fly.
Pay off a big chunk of credit card debt. That'll lower your credit-to-debt utilization ratio, the second biggest factor making up credit scores. The lower that ratio, the better your score. Just don't run a balance back up.
Dispute an error on your credit report. They're actually more common than you think. To check for errors, pull your free credit report(s) from AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find one, dispute it with the credit bureaus.
Bureaus have 30 days to investigate most disputes and credit card companies report balances once a month, so we're not talking an instanteous increase in either case. But these methods are the simplest ways to get an imminent boost. You can find more on improving your credit score here.
Honestly, if there's one task to tackle in your holiday down time, it's this one. We know, we know: "You're an insurance broker! Of course, you'd say that." But here's the thing: If you need life insurance, waiting can cost you. Premiums are directly correlated to your age and health. And, while a few days probably won't cause quotes to spike, missing your opportunity and waiting another six months can. (Quotes rise on your birthday and half-birthday, which, in insurance, is a thing.)
Plus, applying for life insurance is a lot easier than it used to be. Policygenius can get you some quick life insurance quotes — and help you through the rest of the application process.
You can't short-track an emergency fund, but you can certainly start one. Online banks and credit unions offer high-yield savings accounts that forego minimum deposits. Yes, "high-yield" means a 1.25% to 1.5% annual percentage yield, but that beats the .01% at brick-and-mortar banks. Plus, opening an account separate from your primary bank keeps you from unnecessarily tapping its funds. Just make sure to auto-roll money into your new rainy day fund every month.
Again, you can't snap your figures and suddenly have a robust 401(k). But you probably can up the amount of money going into it each pay period. Talk to human resources about upping your contributions — and pat yourself on the back for getting proactive about saving for retirement.
You still have a few days to lighten your 2017 tax bill by making a last-minute 401(k) contribution, donating to charity or adding some money to a college savings plan. And if you don't make the Dec. 31 deadline associated with those items, you can contribute to an individual retirement account or health spending account in the new year. The IRS allows retroactive contributions to those accounts through April 17, which is when taxes are due in 2018.
Image: Paul Bradbury
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