Finances

Financial concerns are a regular source of anxiety, which is understandable given the uncertainties of today’s economy. It’s important to remember that worry doesn’t solve much, but answering the question of how to overcome financial problems does.  The monetary benefits of dealing with financial problems—saving more, paying down expensive debt—will improve not just your bottom line but your overall mood as well. The less you worry about dealing with finances and money issues, the more you can enjoy life.  Money might not be the most important thing in life, but it most certainly makes the world go round. And, although it’s not the be-all and end-all for happiness, it’s something that most people closely tie to their overall quality of life. And, if your finances have been a source of contention for you, then you’re not alone.

20140210_l.jpg
  1.  Increase Your Savings Rate.  There are several ways to accomplish this goal. If you aren’t contributing the maximum amount to your company-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), then simply increase your percentage contribution to the plan. For those that are already maxing out their company-sponsored retirement plan, perhaps you could contribute to an IRA or Roth IRAIf you are already filling your retirement buckets to the max, then start making regular contributions to a taxable savings account. Maybe it is an investment account or maybe you could pad your cash in your emergency fund. However you accomplish it, increasing your savings will boost your net worth and improve your overall financial health.
  2. Track Your Spending  Understanding your average monthly or annual spending makes it easier to successfully plan for your financial goals. For example, planning for the retirement goal of “maintaining your current lifestyle without running out of money” can’t accurately be done unless you have a handle on what your current lifestyle costs on a monthly or annual basis.  There are many free or low-cost options for tracking expenses, so try a few out to see which works best for you.
  3. Pay yourself first  Most people pay their bills first, then spend, and save, whatever is left over. Many of those people never achieve significant financial security. Counterintuitive as it seems, many have found the ‘pay yourself first’ method is the road to wealth. When money comes in, set aside a certain amount for personal spending and, ideally, saving first. Only then start dealing with other outgoings.
  4. Setup an Emergency Fund  Even if you’re not much of a saver, you should have enough money stashed away to cover your living expenses for at least three months. You may never have to draw on this money but knowing you have some breathing space, should calamity strike, provides priceless peace of mind. Plus, if something does go wrong you won’t have to immediately resort to maxing out credit cards or taking out emergency loans with punishing interest rates. 
  5. Cut high-interest debt  If you have existing loans with high rates, consider consolidating the debt into a single lower-rate loan. More of your monthly payment can then go toward lowering the balance. If you carry balances on high-interest credit cards, think about making a balance transfer to a card that offers a promotional 0% APR.  Look for a card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee, and aim to pay down the debt by the time the promotional period ends.
  6. Get a side hustle.  If you need to increase the “income” column in your budget, consider applying for a part-time job, or become one of the millions who freelance.  Start by identifying an interest or hobby you have that others are willing to pay for, such as photography, marketing or tutoring skills. Then spread the word that you’re looking for work.  You could soon have a nice new income stream in the new year.Make a
  7. Plan to Conquer Your Debt  It can be overwhelming to think about paying off college, medical bills, or credit card balances that spiraled out of control. But you don’t have to go it alone. There’s lots of advice (and inspirational stories) out there—just be leery of anything that sounds too good to be true.  If you need help getting out of debt, you can ask your bank or credit union for recommendations. If you’re looking for assistance on your mortgage, contact an FHA certified HUD counselor for free advice.