One of the most common New Year’s resolutions revolves around money. Who doesn’t want to save more and spend less?! With 2017 only days away, a financial tune-up may just be what the New Year ordered. Keep reading to learn about some simple steps that can make a big difference.
Your finances may not be the only thing needing a tune-up; what about your personal protection? A serious fall can cost you much more than you think, even with insurance. Permanent damage or disability can be minimized, and even death may be prevented the sooner help arrives. If you are an aging senior looking to live safely and independently with confidence, then you need Life Alert. While wearing their lightweight, waterproof emergency pendant, you can summon an emergency medical help fast with just one touch of a button. No matter if you experience a home fire, home invasion or even a serious fall, Life Alert’s dispatch team can send you the help you need fast, 24/7.
With Life Alert protecting you and possibly reducing the unexpected cost of a medical emergency, it may be easier for you to reach your financial goals for 2017 by apply some of these tips from the experts over at Real Simple.
1. Set Goals. Whether you’re saving for a child’s college education or hoping to pay off your mortgage, identifying specific money targets is the first step. Sharing your goals with a trusted friend or family member will also help keep you accountable. A recent study by Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California found that participants who shared goals with a friend and sent weekly updates on their progress were more than twice as likely to achieve those goals.
2. Track Spending. Even if you’re already spending less than you earn, use an app like Mint or BillGuard to easily monitor where your dollars are going each month.
3. Talk to a Financial Planner. A professional can help update (or create) long-term plans to meet your money goals. A planner can also walk you through any tax or estate issues you may not have considered.
4. Plan for Retirement. The goal is to max out your retirement accounts, but if you’re not there yet, just increasing your savings rate by 1 percent per year can add up over the course of your career. If you work for an employer with a 401(k) match, you should be investing, at a minimum, enough to get that match. If your employer doesn’t have a 401(k), you can still set aside tax-free money for retirement in an IRA.
5. Build Emergency Funds. Aim to have three to six months of expenses set aside in a liquid account in case you lose your job or get hit with an unexpected bill. Using a credit card or dipping into retirement savings will only compound your financial problems. “In an emergency, there’s nothing that beats cold, hard cash sitting in the bank or a money-market fund,” says Joe Lucey, a certified financial planner and president of Secured Retirement Advisors in St. Louis Park, Minn.
6. Check Tax Withholdings. If you’ve had a major life change like the birth of a child, a marriage, or a divorce, adjust the amount of taxes your employer is taking out of your paycheck. If you received a large refund or owed a lot last year, you may still ask your human resources department for a copy of your W-4. You can request or update the document at any time throughout the year.
7. Check Your Credit Score. You’re entitled to a free credit report (request it at annualcreditreport.com) from each of the three largest credit bureaus. Pull one every four months to make sure there are no errors and to monitor it for discrepancies that could indicate ID theft, such as accounts or charges that you don’t recognize. “That way there are no surprises when you go to get a car loan or refinance your mortgage,” says ReKeithan Miller, a certified financial planner and portfolio manager.
8. Choose a Bank that Rewards You. Practicing responsible financial habits that grow your account balances may help you qualify for banking rewards programs. So, look for a bank that rewards you for your business. Rewards provides clients with a 25% to 75% rewards bonus on eligible credit cards, no fees on select everyday banking services, priority service, and discounts on home and auto loans.
9. Schedule Money Dates with Your Spouse. Financial issues are one of the most common sources of marital conflict. Schedule time each month to check in with your spouse on your shared progress toward your short- and long-term financial goals. Be sure to discuss any upcoming large purchases and how you’ll pay for them.
10. Ask for a Raise. Three-quarters of people who ask for a raise get one, according to PayScale. While new LeanIn data shows that women are slightly more likely to ask for a raise than their male peers, they’re less likely to receive one. Increase your odds by going into a meeting with your boss with a list of provable recent accomplishments. Research the typical salary for your position on Payscale or Glassdoor, so that you know you’re asking for a fair increase. “You want to be reasonable in your expectations,” says Vicky Oliver, a career expert and author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions. If your boss says ‘no’, ask for some concrete steps you can take to improve your performance. Then schedule a check-in for three or six months to talk about your progress.
11. Rebalance Your Portfolio. You’ll want to balance your investment mix (how much money you put into stocks versus bonds) based on your age and risk tolerance. Use an asset allocation calculator to help determine the appropriate mix for you. Then check back a few times a year and readjust your allocation if stock market volatility throws it out of whack.
12. Pay Less for Insurance, Evaluate Refinancing Options. If you haven’t shopped around for home or car insurance for a few years, you may be missing out on a better deal. Lower your premium by buying the two policies from the same provider and by increasing your deductible, or the amount you’d have to pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. In addition, use auto and home loan refinance calculators to help evaluate whether you could save money by refinancing. Banking rewards programs such as Preferred Rewards from Bank of America provide clients with interest rate discounts of up to 0.50% on auto loans, and a reduction of up to $600 on mortgage origination fees.
13. Update Beneficiaries. Double-check that the beneficiaries listed on your financial accounts and life insurance policies list the correct people. If you’ve had the account for many years, your beneficiaries may be outdated.
14. Automate Your Finances. Set up your checking account to automatically pay recurring bills, and make a transfer into your savings account. That way, you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment, and you’ll eliminate one monthly chore from your to-do list. Review your auto-payments once each year to make sure you’re not paying for services you don’t use, like premium cable or subscription services.
15. Invest in a 529 Plan. If you’re planning to help your children pay for college, the best place to set aside money is in a 529 plan, where it can grow tax-deferred and be withdrawn tax-free when used for qualified educational expenses. There is no federal benefit for contributions to such plans, but many states do offer a credit to those saving for college. Despite those benefits, fewer than 40 percent of families who are saving for college are doing so, according to a recent report by Sallie Mae.
16. Make a Will. Many people think that estate planning is only for the very wealthy, but anyone who has dependents should have a basic will that spells out where you want your assets to go and who will take care of your kids. If your finances aren’t complicated, you may be able to create or update your will on your own, via a site like Legalzoom.
17. Protect Your Identity. Identity theft is a growing problem, affecting about 7 percent of Americans in 2014, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. While it’s impossible to entirely prevent identity theft in today’s world, you can minimize your risk. Basic steps include using strong, distinct passwords for all web sites that you visit, avoiding public Wi-Fi, and monitoring your accounts for any suspicious activity.
With the tips above you can be certain that 2017 will be a year of prosperity! Plus, with your few extra bucks, you can finally get the better personal protection you’ve been wishing for. With over 25 years in the emergency medical device industry, you can spend your extra money wisely by choosing Life Alert Protection. Just by simply wearing their medical alert pendant you can summon help fast with just one touch of a button. Whether you encounter an emergency in the kitchen, shower or even on the stairs, Life Alert’s 24/7 dispatch team can send you the proper authorities fast. Saving a buck and putting it towards saving your life is a great way to kick off your 2017!
- “17 Personal Finance Tips for 2017.” Real Simple. <http://www.realsimple.com/partner/bank-of-america/116689?prx_t=b28CAv9AKAyO0PA&ntv_idp=1 >.