As we have just started 2019, and the holidays are over, many people use this time to set goals to improve their finances in the year ahead. Setting aside money for savings can be stressful, especially right after the holiday season where you may have spent more than you would have liked. However, establishing small savings goals can help prepare you and your family for the future, and to overcome some of the inevitable bumps in the road.
According to a survey by Fidelity, a third of Americans set a financial resolution. Last year, those that set a financial resolution did about twice as well as those who didn’t, when it comes to paying down debt and being in a better financial situation than the previous year.
To improve your odds of being successful, your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART).
Here are a few ideas to help you along the way;
Boost your 401k
Review your contributions to your retirement plan at work. Make sure you at least contribute enough to get the full match from your employer, if one is offered. It usually requires you to contribute around 3-6% of your pay.
Did you receive a pay raise? If so, consider using a portion of it to increase your contribution to your retirement plan. That way, you will both get more money on pay day, and your 401k will grow a little faster.
While you are at it, make sure your beneficiaries are correct.
Pay yourself first
Set some money aside for a rainy day, or for one of your goals, and keep it out of sight.
Have a portion of your paycheck deposited directly into a savings or investment account. That way, you never see the money in your checking account, and are less likely to spend it. If needed for an emergency, the money is still available, but it will take an extra step to access it.
Even a small amount can make a big difference, if done consistently. You can start with $50 or $100 a month or paycheck, and then increase the amount if you have room in your monthly budget.
If you are like most, you will be motivated to pursue your resolutions in January. However, you might find that you will have lost some steam just a few months later. To not loose track of your goals, use the first burst of energy to automate as much of the process as you can, to make sure it gets done.
For example; set up automatic payments of your credit cards to avoid late fees and to pay down a balance if you have one; transfer funds to a savings or investment account on a regular basis; pay an extra $100 on top of your regular payment to pay off your loans faster.
Cut unnecessary expenses and fees
Review your bank and credit card statements for recurring expenses that you can cut with limited impact on your life. For example, streaming services you don’t use, a membership to a gym you use very infrequently, or reduce your cable bill by calling to negotiate a lower rate or give up the premium package.
Many banks allow you to set up free overdraft protection from a linked savings account. This will eliminate the risk of paying those exorbitant overdraft fees if you forgot to transfer funds to your checking account, to cover that one bill that only comes occasionally.
Get your professional team in place
It can be a great idea to assemble a team of financial professionals to help you out. The team can include a financial advisor, a CPA and maybe an estate attorney. Although these come at a cost, they can often pay for themselves by advising you of ways to further improve your financial life or save costs in other places.
Take your time to find the right people, and interview them before signing up for their services. Personality makes a big difference, as you want someone that you are comfortable working with, and who you can discuss tough issues with. The hope is to find a great long term relationship, where the goal is to build value over time.
If you have any questions, or would like some guidance, please feel free to reach out to Forty4 Financial.