About half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each January, but only about 20% of people keep them. Getting into shape and achieving financial goals are among the most popular resolutions. (Statista.com)
While we can’t help you reach your ideal weight, we can share 6 ways to help you become financially fit in the new year:
1. Put your money on autopilot—Set up direct deposit, authorize electronic payments, and automate routine savings. Streamlining your finances with online tools not only saves time, it helps you avoid late fees and overdraft fees and makes saving easier.
2. Create a spending plan—Only about 40% of adults have a budget, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Use a free online budgeting tool, like Mint or PocketGuard, to keep track of expenses and compare it to your monthly take-home pay. See where you’re spending too much and make any necessary adjustments.
3. Build an emergency fund—Not having an emergency fund is like driving without wearing a seatbelt; it’s a risk that could ruin the rest of your life. More than half of Americans don’t have a rainy-day fund and 40% don’t even have $400 in cash saved for emergencies. You can start small, $10 to $20 per paycheck, but work to save 3 to 8 months of income. To make it easier, setup an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account.
4. Increase your credit score—Pay all bills on time, every time; pay more than the minimum; don’t use more than 30% of your credit; avoid opening many new accounts in a short time period, and; keep the oldest existing credit (the longer a credit history, the better). Also, if you have parking tickets or library fines, pay them off. Debts are reported to a credit reporting agency and they can knock down your credit score.
5. Request your credit report—You want to make sure there are no errors, and no one is using your credit unlawfully. Request one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
6. Beef up retirement funds—Make regular contributions to a retirement savings plan such as a 401(k) or IRA. If your company offers a 401(k) plan, contribute at least enough to meet the company match. If you don’t, it’s like leaving free money on the table. Also consider opening an IRA at your credit union.