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By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff
Making smarter money decisions is a common New Year’s Resolution. But how about making it your New Decade Resolution?
You’ve surely accomplished a lot in the past decade — did you graduate high school and college? Start your first adult job? Move out of your parents’ house (finally)? Maybe you got married and started a family, too.
But that’s just the beginning — you’ve got more goals already lined up for the next decade. Many of those milestones will be impacted by your money management, whether it’s buying a house, starting (or expanding) a family, finally paying off your student loans, or whatever else you’d like to do. That’s why it’s so important to improve your financial IQ now so you’ll be primed for success for the next 10 years.
However, better money management can require a change of attitude, mindset, and behavior. Here are 20 ways to advance your financial education as you gear up for the 2020s.
Log onto your mobile banking app every day to stay on top of your account balances. You’ll be surprised at how enlightening this little daily ritual can be.
A budget is the basis of any useful financial plan. Give every dollar a purpose so you know that your expenses are covered on a monthly basis. Map out how much you want to spend on groceries, gas, and other regular expenses to set some parameters. By balancing and limiting these expenses, you’ll create the financial order necessary to save effectively.
Think about what you want to achieve with your money. Which goals drop into the short-term bucket? Which ones are long term? After defining these timelines, you can tailor the appropriate financial plan to meet your goals.
Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax can each provide a free credit report once a year, upon your request. Also, periodically check your credit score to notice any changes. Your credit is a big deal, so keep a close eye on it.
The future can be a scary thing to think about, especially when it comes to money. So make decisions today that will positively impact your life tomorrow. Think about the long game and make your future goals a priority.
Do you have a rhyme or reason for how much or how often you save? What about investing? By building a saving and investing plan — directly into your budget — you can make these practices part of your routine. Doing this through automatic deposits makes it even easier.
Be honest with yourself. Are you staying within your budget? Are you spending too much on senseless things? Sometimes the path to financial wellbeing starts by looking in the mirror.
How long would your boss keep you around if you ignored work tasks you really didn't want to do? Not long! Some money tasks aren’t the most exciting use of your time, but the attention you give them will go a long way toward developing and maintaining a solid financial plan.
Did you know there’s such a thing as good debt? That’s any debt you incur on an investment that could grow in value, generates long-term income, or was borrowed at a low interest rate. For example, taking out a 30-year mortgage to buy a home is usually considered good debt since the home’s value could increase over time. That’s much different than having lots of credit card debt — which usually means a high interest rate — on purchases that depreciate in value or have a short shelf life.
Let’s face it: saving money can be hard sometimes. But you don’t have to always feel like you’re counting pennies! It’s important to know when to steer off the path and reward your own good behavior. Treating yourself to an occasional reward will make it much easier to stick to your plan. Think of it as a cheat day for your money.
There are lots of hands pulling at your paychecks each month. Between recurring bill payments (mortgage/rent, student loans, insurance) and everyday expenses (groceries, gas, entertainment), it can be hard to keep track of it all.
An easy way to simplify your cash flow is to open accounts for specific uses. For instance, you could have one checking account for all bills and a second account for everyday expenses.
The same goes for savings: Open one account for new car savings and a second account to save for your upcoming wedding. That way you can clearly see how much you have saved for each goal and how much further you have to go.
Keep an ear on the latest developments concerning the prime rate, regulation changes, and market trends. Mix in a financial podcast during your morning commute or listen to your local news station. This exposure will help sharpen your financial education.
Don’t just search for advice that affirms what you already believe about money management. Seek out alternative viewpoints to broaden your perspective. Who knows, maybe something you hear will resonate.
Even the best financial plans need to be revisited every so often. Make it a habit to review your financial progress every 6-12 months. For example, do you have enough cushion to save more for a certain goal? Are you spending too much in a certain area? Take a hard look at how your plan is performing so you can make any necessary adjustments.
Now, we’re not suggesting you make your salary public knowledge. But don’t shy away from learning about money among your friends and family. Maybe your best friend has a great saving tip to share. Perhaps your sister highly recommends her financial advisor. Sure, certain money matters can be sensitive, so use your discretion. But don’t be afraid to learn something new or share your own tips.
Is your money working hard enough for you? Keeping all of your savings in a standard savings account could have you missing out on higher returns. For example, you could keep your emergency fund in a standard savings account, lock your short-term savings in a certificate of deposit, and invest your long-term savings in stocks or other securities.
Are you still being charged for a membership you don’t use? Did you forget to cancel a free trial offer and ended up auto-enrolled in a monthly or annual subscription? Go through your account statements to catch and cancel any of these recurring expenses you no longer need.
Just because you’re married doesn’t mean all your money should go into your joint checking account. Joint accounts are great for covering mutual expenses, like groceries and bills. Then, each of you can have money in your own accounts to spend (or save up) however you’d like. That can eliminate a lot of tension if one spouse is a saver and the other a spender.
When money is tight, it’s hard to justify increasing your budget in any area. But those that impact your health are probably worth it, such as buying healthier groceries or signing up for a gym membership. It might seem expensive now, but these purchases could lower your risk for developing chronic health issues that’ll carry much larger costs later in life.
Are you taking full advantage of the tax breaks at your disposal? Contributing money to a 401(k) or Traditional IRA helps you plan for the future with tax-free dollars. The same goes for a Health Savings Account or other reimbursement accounts that help pay for health expenses.
Do you need help planning the next 10 years of your life? Schedule a Citizens Checkup at your nearest Citizens Bank branch.
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