Welcome to January, the time of year where we promise to do better. Common, and yet nebulous goals, include diet, exercise, time with family and friends or living life to the fullest. Also on the docket: money. If financial health is your New Year's resolution, it helps to set specific goals. Here's a crib sheet for getting your money on point in 2018.
Kill high-interest debt. Most credit cards carry over 15% annual percentage rates (APRs), so keep balances non-existent to avoid paying unnecessary interest. Already owe? Look into transferring those debts to a 0% APR balance transfer credit card.
Boost retirement savings. Inquire with human resources to bump up the money going into your 401(k) by a few percentage points. If you got a raise, you can save more for retirement without noticing a difference in your take-home pay.
Get an emergency fund. Start with $1,000 and keep saving until you have at least three to six months of expenses stashed away.
Save for a splurge. If you want to money to travel, upgrade your home or just do something fun, budget for it by setting up and rolling any extra dollars into a separate savings account. That way you avoid tapping your emergency fund.
Get life insurance to ensure your family is protected financially in the event of your death. (Bonus: Term life insurance rates are currently at a 20-year low.Here's why.) If your income, responsibilities or family size has increased, consider whether you need to up coverage.
Shop around for a better deal on, well, everything. That includes your credit card APR (see above), auto insurance, homeowners insurance, cable television and internet service.
Question your money choices. Look at your spending, fixed expenses and investment strategy to see if you're set up to live your best life. If not, be open to change. (Listen to Confucius, perhaps?)
Calculate your net worth. That's the sum of your investments and assets minus your liabilities — and probably the best gauge of your financial health at any given time.
Check your credit report. Your credit is also incredibly important to your financial health, since a good score qualifies for better rates on loans, insurance and more. See where you stand by getting your free annual credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Brush up a bad credit score by fixing any errors you find on your credit report, paying down big debts and limiting new credit applications.
Look into refinancing. With interest rates hovering near record lows, now's a good time to refinance a house, car or even student loans.
Track your spending for a month, if you spent more than you should in 2017. Write down every purchase you make and keep a close eye on your credit card bills. You might be spending more than you want on food, entertainment or miscellaneous expenses without even knowing.
Create a monthly budget. Nobody likes the dirty “b” word, but that doesn’t mean budgets aren’t helpful. In reality, budgeting is one of the best ways to afford everything you want in life. The new year is a great time to create a one. Plus, we've got a simple spreadsheet that'll help you set up a budget in five minutes or less.
Automate your savings. Not saving enough? Set up automatic bank drafts to a savings account so you have no choice but to hit your savings goals in the new year.
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