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Be A Millionaire: How To Grow Your Personal Net Worth

raining cash on businessmanIf you want to be super rich, you need to be focused on growing your personal net worth. Take note that this is not just about the amount of cash that you have. It involves your overall value. When computing your net worth, you need to consider your cash, investments, assets and other factors in your life that add to your value.

Some Americans think that their lives never really improved after the Great Recession happened. But if you look at the statistics, you will realize that there is a rise in the number of millionaires all over the world. According to the website WorldWealthReport.com, there are 14.6 million millionaires around the world as of 2014. In North America, there are 4.68 million millionaires – up by 8.3% from 2013. The most number of millionaires can be found in the Asia-Pacific region with 4.69 million of them. The number of millionaires in this regions increased by 8.5% compared to 2013. The region that comes in third when it comes to millionaires is Europe with 3.99 million millionaires, up by 4%. Even Middle East (0.61 million) and Africa (0.15 million) have more millionaires now with a growth of 7.7% and 5.2% respectively. Only Latin America have less millionaires now at 0.53 million – a 2.1% decrease.

You see, regardless of the economic conditions, some people just know how to manage their resources so it will grow and make them millionaires.

3 steps to grow your net worth

You will find a lot of tips and steps and techniques all over the Internet that will teach you how to become a millionaire. The truth is, there is no one-formula to getting rich. People like Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, Robert Kiyosaki and all the other successful individuals out there have different get-rich methods. What works for one may not necessarily work for you. This is why you need to be careful when you are looking for tips to improve your financial situation.

If you think about it, becoming rich begins and ends with financial management. You will never be a millionaire unless you know how to manage your money well. Not only that, you cannot stay a millionaire if you fail in money management as well. But apart from financial management, there are three steps that will help you grow your personal net worth.

Step 1: Get rid of too much debt.

The first step is to lower your liabilities. When it comes to financial liabilities, the first thing that comes into mind is credit. The truth is, debt is not all bad. Millionaires believe that there is such a thing as a good debt and they know how to use it to their advantage. But you need to know which debt is sucking the life out of your finances. You need to find them and end their association with your money. They will only bring your personal net worth down. High interest credit card debts are on top of the list. You can continue to use credit cards for a more convenient shopping experience but make sure that you can afford to pay it in full when the bill comes. The idea is to keep the high interest rate from touching your balance. That is how you are wasting money when you let credit card debt get out of hand.

If you lower your debt balance, you will also raise your credit score. This will open up a lot of financial opportunities for you – like a low interest rate on a loan that will help you finance investments.

Step 2: Secure your future.

There is a simple way that you can secure your future and that is to save. You need to save up for your emergency fund. You need to start contributing towards your retirement fund. You also have to think about the college fund of your kids so you can help them stay out of student loans. The last fund can also be for your own education so you can qualify for a higher compensation at work. All of these funds should be considered if you want to grow your personal net worth. Those who start contributing to their retirement fund while in their 20s will most likely be a millionaire by the time they retire. That is the beauty of compound interest.

When it comes to your emergency fund, this will secure your future – especially against debt. If you borrow money because of an unexpected event, that cannot be considered a good debt. In most cases, debts borne out of emergencies are done out of desperation and that usually means you are on the losing end. Good debts are those that are well planned. To make sure that you will never go into any unplanned debt, just build up your emergency fund.

Step3: Invest your money.

The most proactive way to grow your personal net worth is by investing your money. Putting your money in a savings account is not really considered an investment because of its pitiful interest rate. You need to literally invest your money in stocks, bond and mutual funds to help make it grow as the economy of the country continues to recover. According to an article published on CapGemini.com, High Net Worth Individuals invest their money in different ways. The survey known as Global High Net Worth Survey , revealed that the net worth of HNW individuals are divided into 5 categories: Equity (27%), Cash (26%), Real Estate (20%), Fixed Income (16%) and Alternative Investments (10%). As you can see, most of their wealth is kept in equities. This is because it has the best chance of growing there.

Learn about investing because this is a great way for you to increase your personal net worth. There are both low-risk and high-risk investments that you can dabble in. The rule is, the higher the risk, the higher the potential for growth is.

The millionaire mindset will help improve your wealth

Take note that completing the three steps discussed above does not guarantee that you will become a millionaire. It will help improve your personal net worth but whether or not it will make you a millionaire is still uncertain. That will depend on how you will manage your money after you have invested it. You still need to practice the right financial management skills and at the same time, apply the millionaire mindset.

In the website RichHabits.net, Thomas C. Corley revealed the 5 habits that help make people rich. The author spent 5 years studying 233 millionaires to determine the reasons why they are currently successful. Mind you, these are not millionaires who were born rich. These are self-made millionaires. They worked hard to be where they are and if you want to be like them, you need to implement the following habits.

  • Create multiple sources of income. The first habit is to diversify your streams of income. Do not depend on just one because if something happens to that source, you will be left with nothing. According to the studies done by Mr. Corley, 65% of these self-made millionaires have three or more sources of income. These include rental incomes, stock market investments, side businesses, royalties, etc.
  • Dream before you set a goal. Before you define your goals, make sure you identify your dream first. Your dream will point you to the general direction that you want your life to take. Once you know where you want to go, you can set the smaller goals that will take you there. You can begin by writing down where you want to be in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years time. Be specific about the details like where you want to live, how much your personal net worth should be, etc. When you have these written down, it should be easier to identify what you need to do in order to reach them. Setting your goals around these dreams will make it easier to take action because you have your motivation through your dream.
  • Avoid wasting your time. The article also revealed that millionaires try not to waste their time. There is great value in time and once you waste it, you cannot bring it back. So make sure that every moment spent in your life will count.
  • Find a mentor. Go and find someone that you want to emulate and learn from them. Most of the millionaires in the world attributed their improved personal net worth to their mentors. It could be your parents, a friend, a boss, or a teacher. Find someone that you respect and you know will have a positive influence in your life.
  • Do not quit on a dream. The last habit pointed out by Mr. Corley is to never quit on a dream. An admirable trait of self made millionaires is they are very persistent. When you find an obstacle blocking your way, you either go through it or you go around it. You never stop just because things get a bit too hard. If you fall, you stand up to try again. That persistence will help you grow your personal net worth until you become a self-made millionaire yourself.

Here is a video with 17 tips that will help you get a millionaire mindset. These were created by T. Harv Eker.

9 Tips For Spring Cleaning Your Personal Finances

Cleaning womanFor many of us spring just arrived – at least officially. We’re watching our lawns green up, thinking about having carpets cleaned and wondering when we’ll have time to clean those dirty windows. Now would also be a good time to think about your personal finances and what you could do in terms of spring-cleaning them. Here are nine tips that could help spruce them up, too.

#1. Revisit those credit card offers

The credit card companies are now hollering for business. One research firm has reported that the direct mail offers from credit card companies increased 12% between November and December. Did you receive one or more of these offers? Now might be a good time to apply for one, as the rewards offers are getting juicier. In fact, the credit card companies have been 25% more generous in handing out frequent-flyer miles, rewards points and sign up bonuses versus what they were offering just a year ago.

#2. Check out the new home financing options

The big quasi-governmental organizations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recently announced programs where you could put down as little as 3% when buying a home. The Federal Housing Agency requires as little as 3.5% down and recently lowered its annual mortgage premium. So if you’re thinking about buying a house now might be a good time to start shopping.

#3. Go cheap

There are some items were it doesn’t pay to be cheap such as toilet paper. However they’re other items where you can save a good deal by skimping. Grocery items are often marked way down when they near their sell-by dates. These can be perfectly okay so long as you either freeze or cook them right away. Inexpensive dishes and glassware will hold up just as well is the more costly ones. Plus, it hurts a lot less when you break a plate. Another place to save is on children’s clothes, as they will soon be outgrown anyway.

#4. Get your FICO score free

JP Morgan Chase, USAA, the State Employees’ Credit Union, Ally Financial, Discover and Bank of America are in the process of rolling out programs that will provide their customers with their FICO scores free. This is a monumental change because it will help you know your own creditworthiness, which is critical when it comes to applying for a loan or credit card. However, this is an area where it pays to be a bit careful as not all credit scores are created equal – even those that carry the FICO brand. But whichever you get should be close enough to your true FICO to know how potential lenders will view you.

#5. Move your money to an online savings account

The job market has approved this past year and gas prices dropped dramatically. If these have left you with some extra money you could save the best place to put it isn’t in a conventional bank or credit union savings account. These have an annual yield of around 0.0017% meaning that if you were to save $1000 you would earn just $1.70. But the online banks can generally offer higher interest rates and charge lower fees because they are not required to maintain brick-and-mortar branches. As an example of this MySavingsDirect and GE Capital Bank are currently offering 1.05%. While this may not change your life much it is certainly better than what you would get from your local bank.

Adult Woman#6. Get the credit card you want

We know that if you’ve been rejected for a credit card it can really sting. There are ways to maximize your chances of getting the cards you want and the most important is, of course, to maintain a high credit score. The way you do this is to pay your debts on time and carry as little debt as you possibly can. You should also space out your credit applications. You could call and ask for your application to be reconsidered if you have been rejected. Your creditor might send you a rejection letter explaining why you were rejected. In this case learn a lesson and take whatever steps would be required to remedy the problem. You can learn more information about raising your credit score by checking out this brief video.

#7. Consider leasing you next car

If you can pay cash for your car and keep it past your loan’s payoff date you will probably come out ahead financially. But if you are always shackled to a car payment because you trade in frequently, then leasing could be a good choice. You will have lower payments because you’re paying for the depreciation of the car only over the term of the lease. Also, the car will almost always be under warranty because most leases are for three years. As an example of what this could mean, if you were to lease a 2015 Chevy Malibu for three years you will come out $4000 ahead then if you were to buy the car with a five-year loan and then sell it after three years.

#8. Check out a HELOC

If you have equity in your home now could be a good time to tap it. It’s likely that the Fed will raise interest rates in the coming months and you might be able to get a HELOC or home equity line of credit with a good temporary fixed rate before any interest rate increase. While HELOCs generally have interest rates that fluctuate, some of the current offers have a fixed rate from 12 months to many years and this can be a way to save money if you plan to pay it back before the fixed-rate period ends. And it could be a good way to finance renovations to your home, to cover college tuition or to consolidate your credit card debts.

#9. Save money with free coupon apps

If you stayed away from using coupons because it all seemed too time-consuming then rejoice. It’s now as simple as swiping the screen on your smart phone. There are dozens of apps available that will help you compare prices, navigate sales and even get money back on some of the stuff you buy. ShopSavvy and RedLaser will let you scan an item’s barcode and then will tell you how much it costs at different online stores and if there are special deals available on the item at nearby stores. The app CouponSherpa includes coupons from hundreds of restaurants and retailers and RetailMeNot will alert you as to those stores near you that have coupons and deals available. PriceJump has a feature that will tell you precisely where you can find the best price on an item in each of three categories – Amazon, local and online.

How To Spring Clean Your Personal Finances

dollars hanging out to dryDid you know that spring cleaning is not only applicable to your home but also to your personal finances?

March is here and everyone is getting ready to do some spring cleaning. Once the snow has melted, it is time to check out homes to see how it can be cleaned and maintained for the coming year. While you are at it, why not look into ways that you can clean out and make changes in your financial management efforts?

What you need to realize is that your finances require constant checking. It is actually not something that you do only once a year. You do not set up a budget and then leave it at that. A lot of changes happen in your life that directly affects your personal finances. When you get an increase in salary, when you open a monthly subscription, when you use your credit card – these require you to revisit your financial situation to make sure that your decisions will not cause your financial demise.

According to MarketWatch.com, there will be a lot of improvements in the economy this coming 2015. One of them is the increase of employment. In 2014 alone, 3 million jobs were created for the unemployed. This is predicted to continue this year. With additional news about gas prices and possible stagnant inflation rate, you want to make sure that your finances is positioned in such a way that will make your net worth grow this year. Ideally, you want to do a monthly checkup to make sure that your finances are in good condition. But if what you will do is something as thorough as spring cleaning, then it can be done once a year.

5 ways you can clean out your financial life

There are three important reasons why you need to clean out your finances.

First, it allows you to organize your financial files. When things are organized make you more efficient as you complete financial tasks like paying your debts and bills. But more than that, it gives you a clearer picture of what your current financial situation is like. It allows you to make better decisions because you are aware of what your finances can afford. Finally, cleaning out your finances will help protect you from the dreaded loss of data or identity theft. These will not only rob you of money, it can also ruin your financial prospects. It can ruin any opportunity that you may have to improve your financial position.

So now that you know why it is important to spring clean your personal finances, the next question is, how are your going to do it? Here are 5 things that you can do.

  1. Revisit your budget plan. Your current budget is a reflection of your financial priorities. In most cases, your financial priorities are aligned with your current goals. As we age, our goals change over time. When we experience changes like marriage or parenthood, we find that what used to be important is no longer valuable and we look into things that we never thought would mean so much to us. Since these changes are constant in our lives, it is also important that we revisit our budget every now and then. That is the only way we can make sure that it is still aligned with what we currently prioritize in our lives.
  2. Simplify your financial tasks. You may also want to revise any payment terms that you may have – especially if it involves debt. If you have a lot of credit obligations, you may want to change your payment term to grab a lower interest rate or to help you save more in the long run. For instance, if you received a salary increase, you may want to put in more money into your debt payments. That way, you can pay the balance off a lot faster. In terms of managing your finances, you may want to look into the latest apps that can help you stay on top of your money.
  3. Try to get better deals. We all have monthly payments to take care of. As you are spring cleaning your personal finances, you may want to take this time to review your payments and to see if there is some way that you can get a better deal. If that means calling your service providers to negotiate a better offer or going to a new one, maybe that is what you should do. As long as it will help you get a better value for your money, the change should be worth it.
  4. Take a peek at your credit report. One of the things that you need to do as a good money manager is to check your credit report every now and then. Each year, you are entitled to get one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. You might want to pick one of the bureaus and get your free copy to see if everything is in order. You can see if you had been a victim of identity theft or not. You can also check how much money you owe your creditors. If there are any errors on your report (like a debt that is already paid or a credit account you did not open, you need to have this fixed immediately. According to an article published on the NYTimes.com, all three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian have promised to improve their dispute resolution process. Now is a great time to do just that if you find any errors in your report. You do not want any mistake or wrong entry haunting you.
  5. Physically clean out your wallet and financial files. Lastly, you may want to take a look at your wallet and your financial files. If there are bills that are already paid or receipts that you no longer need, you may want to dispose of them. And you can also review the important documents and receipts that you need to keep for a very long time. Make sure these are kept in a secure location.

These 5 tips should help you make a thorough spring cleaning on your personal finances.

How to take your financial situation to the next level

Now that you have cleaned out your finances and have put everything in order, it is now time for you to consider the steps that will take your financial situation to the next level. After all, you do not want a stagnant financial life. You want it to keep on improving because it will really benefit your future.

Here are a couple of things that you can do.

  • Pay off your debts. If you really want to improve your net worth, you should consider erasing all your debts. You are wasting money through the interest that you are paying your creditors. Instead of investing that money, you are just making them rich. So if you have the extra cash, just pay off what you owe so you can work on growing your money.
  • Boost your emergency fund. According to an article published on Bankrate.com, a lot of Americans, although they keep budgets, do not have enough cash to deal with emergency situations. 6 out of 10 do not have the cash outside of their budget to help with any significant emergency expense. This could lead you to debt so make sure your reserve fund is sufficient.
  • Increase your retirement contributions. If you want to directly invest in your financial future, you need to increase the contributions that you are making towards your retirement account. This is especially true if your employer is matching whatever you are contributing. It will increase the free money that you are practically getting and make yourself more secure when you retire.
  • Add to your investments. Speaking of investments, you may want to start investing in something. It does not have to be in stocks or bonds – at least, if that is something that you do not really understand. But you can at least invest in something that grows in value over time – like gold or your own home. It will help increase your personal net worth. In truth, it does not have to be a lot. You can invest on a pauper’s budget if that is all you can afford. As long as you start with something, even if it is small, it will grow soon enough.
  • Set up financial goals. Lastly, you may want to set up some realistic goals that you can reach. If you have goals, you have something to focus on. Here is a video that will help you set financial goals – at least, those that you can commit to and succeed in achieving.

How To Put Your Personal Finances On Autopilot

student with a notebook and calculatorIf you’re like most of us you have a smart phone. If so, you’ve probably already learned how to manage a lot of your life. You may be using apps to wake you up in the morning, to remind you of meetings and other important dates, to keep track of your music and to provide you with the news of the day. But did you know that you could use that phone to automate much of your personal finances? There are a number of great apps that can help you better manage your money whether you’re saving, investing or just want to keep an eye on your cash flow. But of all these apps there are five you could harness to put your financial life basically on autopilot.

Mint Bills

One of our personal favorites for budgeting is Mint.com. The app Mint Bills distills down the best of what this program offers and presents it in clear, easy to understand snapshots of your overall budget. It combines this with the ability to pay your bills. All that’s required is that you sync your bill-paying account with those bills you pay each month such as your credit card bill, cable, cell phone, etc. Mint Bills will then determine when your bills are due and send you an alert. You could open the app and pay the bill right there and then. Mint Bills also allows you to track your investment accounts and your savings. Another feature of this app, which you should definitely take advantage of is its alert system. If any suspicious transactions occur on your account or your account balances run low, it will immediately tip you off. You can download Mint Bills free and any payments you make via your bank account are also free. But one thing you don’t want to do is use this app to pay bills with a credit card. These transactions cost a $4.99 processing fee, which switches to a flat 4% if the payments are over $125. Do the math. That’s $5 per transaction. Ouch.

Acorns

You’ve probably heard that old adage that giant oak trees from little acorns grow. We’re assuming that this probably has something to do with the name of this app. Whether that’s true or not, this app is a great way to start investing if you don’t have much money. You link it to your debit card. When you use the card to buy something and it doesn’t come out to be a round number, Acorns will round up the transaction to the nearest dollar and then save that change. When your savings balance hits $5, Acorns deposits the money in whatever investment account you chose. You will need to provide the app with some personal information regarding your investment goals, your income and your net worth. It will then recommend one of five investment portfolios. These portfolios range from aggressive to conservative and consist of ETF’s that are chosen and rebalanced by the Acorns people. The app is free to download but costs $1 a month until there’s $5000 in your account. After that, Acorn’s fee is 0.25% of your total assets per month. If you decide to withdraw your funds there are no fees.

Digit

Would you like to be able to save money without even knowing you’re doing it? I mean, talk about painless. After you sign up for Digit you will need to link it to your checking account. The app has a very smart algorithm that will monitor your spending. Then every few days it will determine what you can afford to save. It will then move the money into a Digit savings account, which is insured by the FDIC up to a maximum of $250,000. The beauty of this app is that it only takes a small bit of cash at a time so that you hardly notice the money has been withdrawn. It also eliminates the fear of overdrawing your account because of this was to happen, Digit will pay any overdraft fees. Most of the savings transfers that Digit makes range between $5 and $30. However, there is one downside, which is that you don’t earn any interest on your money. This means that you don’t want to use this account for long-term savings. You would be better off leaving that money in high interest-bearing accounts. But Digit represents a terrific way to save up for something mindlessly such as gifts for the holidays or a weekend getaway.

Credit Karma

There are a number of ways to get your credit score. You could get it on the site www.myfico.com if you’re willing to either pay for it or sign-up for a free trial of one of FICO’s services. You can also get your credit score free from the three credit reporting bureaus – Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Some of the credit card companies are now giving credit scores free. Even Mint now provides them. But we really like Credit Karma because it gives you that critical credit score not from just one of the three major credit-reporting bureaus but from two of them – Transunion and Equifax. It will also provide you with a complete summary of your credit history and let you see almost immediately what would happen if you were to make a new credit inquiry or get an increase in one of your credit limits and how this will affect your credit score. Credit Karma can also be very useful for monitoring your credit to see if there are any suspicious activities. Just as important, it’s free.

stack of cash

Personal capital

Finally, the app Personal Capital offers all the same would impact your credit score. budget-tracking abilities of programs such as Mint but is great if you are an investor and would like to track all your investments in one place. One of Personal Capital’s most important features is that it will analyze your mutual fund and retirement account fees and then alert you if they’re are higher than average. You can also see snapshots of how your investments are doing in real time with a feature called Investment Checkup. To take advantage of this you will need to sync your accounts with the app or to its website. If you have more than $100,000 in assets Personal Capital offers a financial advisory service that provides low-cost wealth management services. Personal Capital is free to download. The fees for financial advice start at 0.89% for assets under $1 million.

A word of warning

All of these apps with the exception of Credit Karma require that you link them to your financial accounts. As you might guess they each have an impressive list of security and privacy protections to ensure that your information stays secure. However, beyond this you should take whatever steps you can to protect your accounts on your end. This means setting up a PIN on your smart phone or what’s even better is fingerprint ID. Also, sign up for two-factor password protection if it’s offered and alerts that will tell you if your account changes.

The net/net is that if you’re willing to spend a few minutes downloading and setting up these apps you will have basically automated the most important parts of your personal finances – and saved yourself many hours of drudgery.

Economic Recovery Is Bypassing Many Households: Can You Still Increase Your Wealth?

If you are caught up in the pursuit to increase your wealth, you are certainly not alone. A lot of us strive for financial abundance – it is something that we seem to be trained for from the moment we start our education. After all, that is the main reason why we get an education right? We want to put our future selves in a position wherein we can earn a living that can financially sustain all our needs.

Since we live in a consumerist society, we need money to pay for our basic necessities. If we want to be comfortable, we need to earn more. That is the mantra that we have been fed since the beginning of time. This is the main reason why you are trying to improve your personal wealth – just like everybody else.

But despite our best efforts, our financial success is tied up with the country’s economic well being. If the national economy is in trouble, you can expect that your own personal finances is in jeopardy as well. In the same way, if the collective personal finances of Americans are in trouble, you can be assured that the economy is in the same condition.

If that logic is in effect today, then the average American household should be in a great position to improve their wealth this year. According to an article published on CNBC.com, the US economy is expected to grow further in 2015. It was steadily growing in the past few years but this year, it is expect to grow at a rate that is considered the fastest in the past decade. The National Association for Business Economics predicted that the economy will enjoy a 3.1% increase this year – which is the first to reach the 3% mark since 2005. Experts are predicting that this will help sustain the global economy.

That is good news for the American household right? After all, if the US economy is expected to sustain the global economy, it can surely sustain you as you try to increase your wealth this 2015.

Apparently, that is not the case.

Study shows that many households do not feel the economic improvement

While the signs are there proving that the economy is on its way to recovery (if it is not yet there), a study revealed that a lot of households do not feel this improvement. It may be true that the American household debt crisis is no longer evident, but that does not mean the overall financial situation of consumers have improved. The jobs may be there and the means to finance a more comfortable way of life is also available. You have most of what you need to increase your wealth but there are statistics that show how a lot of households are not riding the economic recovery of the country.

That is not to say that the statistics are wrong but if you think about it, the cost of living may just be too much for most people to keep up with. This is probably the reason why some people are not feeling the improvements in our economy.

According to the study published on CFED.org, the website of the Corporation for Enterprise Development, there is evidence that millions of households are being bypassed by the economic recovery. This statement is based on the findings of the 2015 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard that uses more than 100 measures to check how households fare when it comes to the pursuit of financial security. While there are some households that are improving, these are oftentimes limited to the wealthier homes and specific races. The difference between the high-income and low-income households are just too great to be ignored.

Among the findings from this study include the following:

  • 44% of US households live in liquid-asset poverty. This means when a household is in sudden need of liquid assets (e.g. cash), they do not have anywhere to get it from. That means if an emergency strikes, they are more than likely to be in debt or spiral down into a financial crisis. Those who are not in liquid-asset poverty are those who have cash reserves, stock investments and retirement funds.
  • The average annual pay decreased in 36 states and in DC. Those in the lower 20% of the income bracket earn one-fifth compared to what the top 20% is earning ($21,159 vs $106,196). Not only that, 25% of the employment opportunities in the country are low-paying jobs. This is 4% more than last year. The data revealed that women and colored races ar at a disadvantage in the statistics.
  • Those with low credit scores (subprime) have reached 56% which makes them unable to get good terms in credit applications.
  • Despite the news that the housing market is stable, the rate of homeownership is only 63.5%, which is a low rate for the past 20 years.
  • In terms of education, the number of graduates have increased in the past couple of years – probably because of the availability of student loans. But then again, these loans are putting graduates at a financial disadvantage early in their career.
  • For health care, the Affordable Care Act is helping to improve this problem but some states have not expanded Medicaid and that left a lot of financially challenged households without an insurance.

If you look at your own finances and compare it with what you see here, you can see how you will fare as you try to increase your wealth. These indicators show how capable Americans are when it comes to saving and wealth building. Despite the increase in job rates and the strengthening economy, it is apparently not affecting all the households in this country.

Tips to help you improve your net worth

While the apparent recovery of the US economy is enough to make you feel confident that your finances will follow suit, you need to stop being too complacent. According to an article published on TIME.com, the economy may be improving but the foundations of that improvement is not as stable as we would like it to be. Although the job growth and the GDP is at its strongest, how sure are we that we can withstand a global crisis that could loom in the future? The article explained that the recovery that we are experiencing today was kickstarted by low interest rates and a $4 trillion budget that were orchestrated by the government. It was not a recovery built on stronger foundations like an aggressive housing market or high wages.

Given that, let us remind ourselves of the importance of securing our own personal finances – regardless if the economy is doing well or not. Here are a couple of tips that you can use.

  • Build up your emergency fund. Most of the data that we got from the CFED are only made dangerous because these statistics increase the chances of consumers turning to high interest debts to make ends meet. If you have an emergency fund, no situation will ever lead you to debt – not unless the financial need is very expensive. So build up your liquid assets so you have something to dip your hand into when you need it the most.
  • Always be cautious of credits. While credit is a risky move, there are instances wherein it is necessary in our lives. For instance, using your credit cards will help you improve your credit score so you can avail of low interest loans that could finance a new home or a start up business. But it should all be done wisely. Make sure that your credit has a purpose and that you can commit to the payments no matter what. Planned credit transactions should be a must before you take on any debt.
  • Invest your money but be aware of the market trends. Investing is one of the ways that you can increase your wealth. However, you need to be aware of the market trends so you know how you can lower the risk that you are putting your money through. According to the 5 rules of wealth building, you need to track your money. That includes your savings, spending and your investments.
  • Strengthen your assets. If you have to buy something, it should be assets that grow in value over time. This includes real estate properties and jewelries. You can also invest in your education since your skill is also a great investment. The economy may falter but it cannot remove the value of your knowledge and skills. Buying things like a car that depreciates over time may not be the wisest investment to make – not unless your old car is ripping out more money out of you because of repairs.

It is possible to come up with a plan to help you increase your wealth despite the conditions of the economy. The thing is, you need to start now. Do not wait for things to turn for the worse before you start preparing your finances. Build your wealth as soon as possible.

5 Ways You Can Use Your Tax Refund To Improve Your Personal Finances

tax refund ahead signYour tax refund is something that you can actually use to improve your personal finances. You just have to figure out the best way to use it based on your unique financial situation.

In February of 2015, the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) will start distributing tax refunds. After you have sent your tax return, your refunds will follow after less than 21 days. This means you can expect to receive this money in your bank account very soon – at least, if you have filed your returns accordingly.

According to Treasury.gov, the average refund that can be expected from the returns of 2014 is $2,696. This is a 1.5% increase from the refund back in 2013. This average tax refund is quite a hefty amount. You can really do something about this money.

It is very important that you use this money wisely. Regardless if your finances is in good shape or not, you cannot just splurge this amount without thinking about your future. As we have learned in the past, things can turn for the worse anytime. One moment everything is okay and the next thing you know, you are neck deep in debt.

Since this is basically an expected amount (although we are unaware of the exact amount), most people already have plans on how to use it. There are both smart and dumb ways to use your income tax refund. If you wish to improve your personal finances, you need to figure out the smart ways to use this extra money.

5 tips to help improve your financial situation through your tax refund

There are actually many ways for you to use your tax refund but in this article, we will only discuss 5 of them. Some people may only need to use it on one of the items on the list while others may choose to split the money and use it in more than one. It really depends on you. It helps to take a look at your financial priorities and your goals to determine which of these will help improve your personal finances the most.

Pay off your high interest credit cards

One of the best ways to put your tax refund to good use is to pay off credit card debt. You may be thinking – why are we prioritizing your credit card balance? First of all, it accrues interest at a rate that is faster than most debts. You are wasting a lot of money because most of your payments will go to the interest alone. It will continue to capitalize as long as you are carrying over a balance each month. The longer it takes for you to pay off your debts, the more you will end up paying on interest. So try to get rid of these high interest debts and please – keep your credit card spending to a minimum. Unless you are sure that you can pay off the balance in full at the end of each month, then do not spend through this plastic card. Learn the proper way of credit spending so you do not have to put yourself under so much debt. If you already have a balance, you can cut back on it by using you tax refund to significantly reduce what you owe.

Get rid of debts with small amounts

If you have two to three debts that can be covered by your tax refund, you may want to use it to eliminate these debts completely. In some cases, people who have successfully paid off a debt end up being more motivated to eliminate the other debts that they have. If you think that you need this motivation to get through all of your credit accounts, then by all means, use your tax refund to close off the smaller debts. This can also help you concentrate on the few remaining debts that you will have left.

Save the money in your emergency fund

Some people would say that saving your money should be a priority because it is the proactive way that you can improve your personal finances. However, paying off your debts usually ends up saving you more money because of the high interest rate that you will eliminate in the process. While this is the logical assumption, you need to look at one part of your savings – your emergency fund. Make sure that before you choose debt over your savings, you already have sufficient emergency funds in the bank. This should help you be more financially secure. At the same time, it will also keep you from the need to incur more debt.

Save for the future

By future, you know that we are referring to retirement right? Your future self deserves this. It doesn’t matter if you are still young and retirement is decades away. Some people are able to retire by 30 because they used their money wisely. The earlier you start, the less you have to contribute. The less you have to put away each month for your retirement, the less of a burden it will be in your budget. It will also help you save more if you start early. According to an article published in CNBC.com, HSBC conducted a global study about retirement trends. Based on the results, they are too much into debt to be able to save up for retirement. This is a sad situation for the Americans and their very bleak future. This is why your tax refund might be of better use to your future.

Save for your improvement

The fifth and final tip for your tax refund is to use it to improve your skills. It may be to get a college education or attend a seminar that will enhance your knowledge and expertise in the industry. You can even use it to buy an equipment that will help in your business. Anything that will give you leverage so you can ask for a higher compensation from your employer. If you get a higher pay, it will really improve your personal finances and may even allow you to fund the other items on this list.

Any extra money that you have – tax refunds, commissions and any monetary gifts may be used to finance any of the items on this list.

How to set up your finances to achieve security

One thing that you can gain when you improve your personal finances is financial security. It is not really about how much you are earning, but how much of your finances can be used to bail you out of a tight spot.

There are so many ways for you to do this year that will help you improve your financial situation. According to IBTimes.com, Americans are expected to save a lot in 2015 because of the falling gas prices. Around $75 billion is expected to be saved this year. You could take advantage of this savings by allotting your budget on something else.

That extra money can be used to grow your savings or invest. If you want to build a better financial future, you need to consider carefully how you can save money especially when there is an abundance of it. That means getting extra funds like your tax refund should be used wisely. Do not increase your spending. Instead, keep your lifestyle as it is and increase your savings.

Although the economy is showing signs of improvement, we should never be complacent. Preparing for the unexpected is the best way to secure not just our finances, but our very lives and those around us.

Tell Us Your Generation And We’ll Tell You Your Financial Mistakes

We don’t have a crystal ball but if you tell us your generation, we’ll tell you the mistakes that you’ve made or are most likely to make. That’s right, there are some mistakes that every generation makes.

frustrated woman with a paper and calculatorFinancial mistakes made by twentysomethings

People in their 20s have a number of things in common besides their age. Most have just either left home or finished college and are starting out on their real lives. They also tend to make the same mistakes. For example, one of the biggest mistakes made by people in their 20s is putting off debt repayment. You need to start paying off your student loans as quickly as possible as this will keep you from having to pay extra interest over the years. Plus, do you really want to still be paying off your student loans when you’re in your 40s or even your 50s?

A second financial mistake made by twentysomethings is not thinking about retirement. We understand that age 55 or 65 can seem like a long way away but that’s actually a good thing. The more time you have to save for retirement the more money you will be able to save and the more money you will earn in interest. You should be putting at least 3% of your annual salary into a 401(k) or a Roth IRA. Do this and the future you will be eternally grateful.

A third mistake is to avoid making investments. You may not have a lot of money to sock away but it’s important to get started. Your bank probably offers a free investment advisor to help you choose your investments. If not, just pick an index fund and get started. But above and beyond all, get started.

The mistakes made by thirtysomethings

If you’re in your 30s one mistake you may be making is short term financial planning. Whether you think this or not, you are going to really zoom into your 40s. Don’t let these next years slip by. You should be setting goals for the next five, 10 and even 20 years. As an example of this, your unborn or very young child may be years away from college but now is the time to start preparing for these expenses.

Trying to keep up with the Joneses is another mistake that’s almost always made by people in their 30s. You might think it’s fun to compete with family members and your peers but you need to understand that when that relative or friend comes home with a new car all he or she is doing is taking on new debt. The fact is that people who have nicer things are not necessarily better off financially than you and in fact might be worse off.

What’s better is to take pride in how your savings account is growing and not that you have the newest car or toy?

Many thirtysomethings have made the mistake of going back to grad school. In some cases it can be a good idea to get an advanced degree. And in today’s economy, many people are finding it hard to get a job in their field and they are returning to school to try to fix this. The problem is that this only increases your student debts and you might find your new degree doesn’t really lead to a better job or a higher salary.

Have you bought more house than you really need? This is another mistake commonly made by people in their 30s. We understand that it can feel great to buy that first home. And it’s a good investment. But don’t make the mistake of buying a house that’s too big for your budget and your needs. Do this and you’ll not only have a bigger mortgage, but you’ll also have higher taxes and bigger utility bills. A better idea is to start smaller and then move up as your needs and your net worth change.

House with cash on the roofFinancial mistakes made by fortysomethings

By the time you reach your 40s you’re probably well entrenched in your career and the idea of changing to a new one can seem very scary. But it’s a mistake not to consider this. If you want to change careers you don’t necessarily have to start at the bottom. You have good, valuable experience that should help you land an equally good job in a new career.

A second financial mistake made by people in their 40s is about their mortgages. You’ve probably been paying on your mortgage for so many years that it’s just become automatic. However, you should now start looking at your end goal. Could you do something to payoff your mortgage even faster? Maybe you would like to pay it off before you become an empty nester. If this is the case, you need to determine to increase your monthly payments to achieve that goal.

If you still have credit card debt this is yet another mistake made by people in their 40s. What you want to do at this time of your life is to get rid of your debts as much as possible. There’s no way to know what will happen to you in the next decade. You might lose your job, see your kids go away to college or be hit by big medical bill. To prepare for these emergencies, you need to not have any debt hanging over you.

Finally, people in their 40s often make the mistake of not having a will. We understand that thinking about your own death is not a fun subject. However, you need to have a will. This is the only way you can control what happens to your money and your other assets when you die. A will also makes sure that your loved ones are not left confused as to what they need to do if something were to suddenly happen to you.

Fiftysomethings and their mistakes

Unfortunately, one of the most common and worst mistakes that people in their 50s make is dipping into their savings. You should have a retirement fund that’s fairly impressive by now and it can be tempting to use some of that money, especially if you’re facing a financial pressure such as paying for your kids’ education or helping support your aging parents. What’s best is to leave your retirement money alone and figure out some other way to deal with any new financial pressures.

It’s also a financial mistake to underestimate what retirement will cost you. Today, the biggest cost most retired people face is healthcare. Whether you like to think about this or not, you have to plan that you might need long-term care in your 80s. This can cost as much as $6000 a month so it’s important to understand this and plan accordingly.

Third, it’s a mistake to let your children use you. We understand that you want to help your kids but they do need to develop some financial independence. You could start with small steps such as refusing to pay for their car insurance or taking them off your family cell phone plan. And, of course, they should eventually pay you rent, which can be a great way to encourage them to move out on their own.

How To Dramatically Improve Your Financial Life In Just Six Weeks

paying through a card in a pubWhen you look at your financial life what do you see? Do you see a big stack of unpaid bills? Bank statements you never bothered to open? A checking account that’s just about bottomed out?

Well, the good news, if you see this as good news, is that most of us have problems with our money. Our lives are demanding, we have busy stressful careers and our families eat up most of our calories and our energy. Again, if you’re typical you probably just don’t feel that you have either the desire or the time available to get your finances under control

Getting started

In your heart of hearts you probably want to have a better financial life but it’s tough to know where to get started. Fortunately, it’s not really that difficult. What you need is a monthly schedule to get your finances on track. It’s really not much different from having a daily and weekly routine for yourself. You need to develop a plan that will help keep you concentrating on accomplishing your financial and personal goals. And you can really get the majority of your money problems behind you in just six weeks.

Here’s the blueprint.

Week one: Create two or three personal goals

Sit down and think about your life and organize your future by creating a series of short-term goals. Then make an action plan to achieve those goals that has a timeline with some small steps to get you to where you need to go. Start saving money for those goals and you’ll reach them quicker. If you have a problem setting goals here’s a video courtesy of National Debt Relief that could help …

Week two: Make a spending plan

You’ve probably heard this 1000 times but if you’re now in a money in/money out cycle that leaves you grasping for pennies at the end of a month, this is the time to take the guesswork out of it. If you want to reach your goals and in time you will need to find ways cut your spending. Good places to start are entertainment, dining out, clothing and groceries. These are the areas where it’s usually easiest to cut spending. In comparison, it can be very difficult to reduce your spending on fixed expenses such as your rent or mortgage and any auto payments. The category of groceries is one where most people find they can reduce their spending without really sacrificing anything. All it takes is menu planning, careful shopping and some coupons.

If you find you’re having a hard time making a spending plan, you might book a session with your local, nonprofit credit-counseling agency. You would be assigned a counselor that will review all of your spending and help you create a plan for reducing it. Most of these agencies charge nothing or very little for their help and sometimes the most important thing you can do is have an objective, third-party person analyze your spending and help you develop a plan for cutting it.

Week three: Work on reducing your debt

Unfortunately, it’s easy to overspend especially when it comes to credit cards. When you don’t have enough cash to pay for something it’s just too darn easy to whip out that piece of plastic and charge it. But if you’re carrying a big load of debt, you may be paying so much interest that it’s weighing down your finances. Make a plan to get rid of any debt you have that that isn’t fixed such as a mortgage. You need to find ways to simplify your payables. If you have high credit card debt, you might check into a debt consolidation loan. The upside of one of these loans is that you would then have just one payment to make a month in place of the multiple ones you’re probably making now and that payment should be lower than the sum of your current payments. However, there are a couple of downsides to a debt consolidation loan. First, it will have a longer term such as seven or even 10 years, which means you’ll end up paying more interest over the life of the loan. And if you don’t have good enough credit to get a personal loan you may have to get a homeowner’s equity line of credit (HELOC) or homeowners equity loan. In either event, you would be putting your house at risk because if you were to default on the loan, you could end up out on the street.

Week 4: Consolidate your credit cards

How many credit cards are in your wallet? If you have three or more, this is just making your financial life that’s much more complicated. This means you have to keep track of all of those different transactions and balances and which days of the month you must make your payments in order to avoid missing one, which would damage your credit score. Instead, try to consolidate down to just one or at the most two cards. For that matter, you could transfer all of your credit card balances to a new 0% interest balance transfer card. You should be able to find one of that offers as many as 18 months interest free, which would give you a year and a half to pay down your balance before you would be required to pay a cent in interest. Plus, you would then need to remember and make just one payment a month.

Week 5: Put everything on autopilot

Take sometime this week to put your savings and your bill paying on autopilot. You know you need to pay yourself first and that you want to have a decent retirement. When you set up an automatic transfer each pay period from your checking to your savings account, it’s money you hardly miss because you never really see it. Ideally you should begin with an emergency fund equivalent to six months worth of living expenses. If that seems too daunting, try for at least three months worth. You should be able to pay all or virtually all of your bills automatically and electronically. That way you could stop worrying about missing a payment and having your car repossessed or your electricity turned off.

Week 6: Review your insurance policies

Take a few hours to sit down and review all your home, life, and auto insurance policies and their coverage so there will never be any unpleasant surprises. Do you know your coverages especially when it comes to disability? They might have changed recently. Even if you’re content with your current insurer you should comparison shop at least once a year. This is relatively easy to do through sites such as esurance.com and netquote.com. Be sure to check your auto insurance’s liability limits to make sure you would be adequately covered in the case of an accident.

If you have a will get it out and review it. This is especially important if your family situation has changed due to marriage or a birth. And if you don’t have a will you need to get one. It’s the only way you can control what happens to your money should you die suddenly and without warning. Otherwise, a court will likely be required to do this for you, which could be a very bad thing.

You might not be able to solve every money problem in just six weeks but if you follow this program you should be able to take much of the stress out of your life and get your money under control. The important thing is to focus on these easy-to-implement strategies. This will free up time for you because you’ll be worrying less and more able to focus on what really matters the most – which is living your life to the best today.

17 Nuggets Of Wisdom That Could Help Improve Your Financial Life

Couple Using Laptop And Discussing Household Bills Sitting On Sofa At HomeLet’s face it. Thinking about personal finances isn’t much fun unless you’re a member of that fortunate 1%. Of course, if you’re a member of the 1%, you probably don’t have to think much about your financial life anyway. But if you’re like us and are a member of the other 99% then finances are something you think about a lot. You’ve probably read articles or even books about personal finance with advice about creating a budget, having an emergency fund, paying down your debt and so forth. Beyond this, there are some other things you could do that would help improve your finances and here are 17 of them.

Create a roadmap of your goals

Just sitting down and asking what are your goals can get you on the path to realizing them. Don’t be afraid to think big and pursue those really big dreams even if they don’t seem doable. If you want to increase the chances that you will succeed, create a spreadsheet and do some number crunching to make sure you will have enough money to fund those adventures.

Drive less

This may seem a bit radical but the less you can drive your car the better. While driving is very handy, it can also be incredibly expensive when you take into consideration the oil and gas, insurance and depreciation. Automobile accidents are very common these days and if you get into one – even if it’s not your fault – you would have to at least pay the deductible. If you do have to drive a lot, make sure you do regular oil changes and all of the maintenance recommended by your car’s manufacturer.Avoid products that could be dangerous

Avoid products that could be dangerous

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is now issuing hundreds of product recalls a year. This makes it hard to keep track of all of them. It’s easier if you sign up for alerts from the Commission or download an app that will alert you when a recall occurs. Be particularly careful when it comes to used baby products, as there has been a number of crib, stroller and highchair recalls.

Cut your spending dramatically

If you focus your attention on monthly expenses such as cable, phone and Internet, you should be able to reduce them and your spending dramatically. Once you’ve done this, get to work on some of your variable expenses like groceries. We know of one person that did all of this and managed to cut his spending by $1000 a month.

Use the new online tools

There are a wide variety of web-based tools and apps available to help you manage your money. The company Corporate Insight recently found there are more than 100 new startups with apps or software that could help you manage your finances. In addition, there are apps such as Shopular, RetailMeNot and RedLaser that make it easy to use coupons and discounts when you’re making purchases.

Commit to earning more

If you’re one of the many Americans that are under-earners, commit yourself to earning more money. The best first step is to promise yourself to earn more and to make sure you say “yes” to any opportunities you come across that would allow you to do it.

Keep your finances off of Facebook

While it might be fun to brag about your high credit score on Facebook, it’s much better to keep that kind of information off the Internet. Facebook and other types of social media are very public and are places where the scam artists hang out and look for financial information they could use to defraud you. When it comes to your personal finances, a good rule is that less sharing is better.

Review your auto and life insurance policies

Automobile insurance policies can have different deductible amounts, coverage limits and important limitations. These are things that could surprise you if you’re in an accident. Review your policies and make sure you understand them including your life and disability insurance. If there is insurance available where you work think about supplementing it with your own policies.

Be ready for an increase in interest rates

Interest rates are now very low. However, most financial experts say they will eventually rise and possibly more sooner than later. To get ready for this, you need to pay off any debts where your interest rates could rise, and if you are a homeowner you should think about refinancing if you haven’t already done so. If you are a first-time buyer and are looking to buy a home, you might want to think about doing it very soon so that you could get rates that are still low.

Reduce your tax bill

The ugly fact is that many people pay more in taxes than they really should. If you put money into a retirement account that is pre-tax, buy some municipal bonds or start your own business, you will pay less in taxes. If you’re part of a gay couple you might also check to see what refunds you’re entitled to for the past two or three years as the Internal Revenue Service now recognizes same-sex marriages for income tax purposes.

Trade for or rent a high fashion dress

While you may not be aware of this, you can rent and trade for high-end clothes on the Internet. For example, Tradesy makes it very easy to sell and buy seldom-worn fashion items including designer dresses. This gives you the opportunity to wear fancy clothes without buying them. There is also a number of websites growing in popularity such as Bag Borrow or Steal and Lending Luxury where you can rent accessories and dresses for that big party. While it will cost you some money, you will spend a lot less than if you were to purchase the items and will still look like a million bucks.

Kick something off on Kickstarter

More than one hundred thousand projects have been launched on this site and about 44% achieved their goals as of December 2013. You don’t have to be a celebrity to use Kickstarter to fund that creative idea of yours. If you do go for it, promote your project first on Facebook and Twitter and to your friends. Make a great video and, above all, have a very appealing product like the Coolest Cooler that just raised millions of dollars.

man holding credit cardsGive gift cards

While gift cards might seem a little soulless, they really are an ideal gift in a lot of ways. And this reduces the time and strain of gift giving. The majority of people say they really like to get these cards. If you choose cards that are retailer specific (think Cabela’s or Ace Hardware), they generally don’t have fees or penalties for delayed use. Be careful about gift cards from the credit card companies as they generally come with fees that can range from $4 to $6.95. Also, you can get some additional protection by registering the card in the event it is stolen or lost.

Watch out for online scams

It’s easy to buy items on websites like Craigslist but there are fraudsters that prowl these sites. To make sure you’re safe, always arrange to meet the person face to face when paying cash for goods. Be sure to meet some place public and if possible bring along a friend for added protection. And under any circumstances do not wire money before you see the item, as this is how much fraud occurs

Talk to your honey about money

Finances are one of the biggest reasons why couples end up splitting. You should always be honest with your spouse or partner. One good idea is to make a periodic “money date” to review your finances, talk about the big decisions and consider each other’s financial mindset. Do this and you should be able to work together to set and reach big-money goals whether it’s buying a home or traveling to Europe.

Stop worrying and be happier

Finally, sitting around and worrying about money can waste a lot of time. One recent study found that 36% of the people queried said that they spent at least two hours a day worrying about their money or managing it. There are a number of free resources available that can help reduce some the strain of personal finances and save you time to boot. So get busy, find a few apps and stop worrying so much.

11 Financial Things You Should Have Done Before Turning 30

woman smilingIf you’re close to or about to turn 30, this is a fairly significant milestone. Your youth is behind you and you are now definitely an adult. With adulthood comes some great responsibilities and number one on your list should be to take charge of your finances. We understand this doesn’t sound like much fun and that personal finance can sound like a very dry topic. But it cannot be denied that financial things play a huge part in our lives, that money is always one of the top stressors and that it can cause the biggest discord among couples. In fact, every report we’ve seen ranks finances as the second biggest reason for divorce – right behind communication or lack thereof. We hope that you already have your personal finances at least somewhat under control. You should have a reasonably good idea as to where your money’s going and how your spending stacks up against your earnings. Beyond this, here are 11 goals you should have achieved by now. These goals are, of course, not for everyone and some of them may not be feasible for you. However you should keep these in mind as general guidelines. And if you haven’t yet achieved them, it might be time to sit down and write out a plan for accomplishing them.

You should have saved up for the big expenditures of life

You should be thinking about, anticipating and saving up for the big expenses of life. You will need to factor in your wedding, children, a pet, a house and other similar big ticket items. If you plan for these events, you’ll be adjusting your lifestyle, you will be able to afford those expenses and you will not have to go into debt to pay for these items. You should probably try to budget a realistic amount to cover these expenses so you don’t have to go into debt. Of course, another good idea is to forgo some of these expenses and question if they really are necessities.

You should be living within your means

By now, you should know about living within your means and also enjoying life. You should be able to put priorities on your spending and then save in other areas so you can enjoy those “guilty pleasures”. Even if that pleasure is just a daily latte, you should be able to indulge yourself so long as you’re cutting your spending aggressively on other items. Also, be careful about comparing yourself to other people. What they skimp on may not be what you want to give up.

You should have emergency savings

We hope you already have an emergency fund. Most experts say this fund should be the equivalent of six month’s worth of your living expenses and some say it’s even better to have a year’s worth as a better buffer. Of course, it’s easy for those experts to say this. If you find that it’s extraordinarily difficult to save the equivalent of six month’s of living experiences, try for at least three. Life is full of unanticipated issues such as an automobile accident, a serious illness, a friend or family member who suddenly needs financial help or losing your job. If you don’t have an emergency savings fund your only alternative will be to go into or further into debt.

You should be maxing out your 401(k) contribution

If your employer offers a 401(k), you should max out your contribution or at the very least meet your employer’s match. A 401(k) is really the workingman’s best friend. The money is taken out of your salary before you even see it – making your donation practically painless. If your employer does match your contribution this is like free money. While the stock market probably won’t continue to grow the way it has the past several years you could still earn good money by choosing the right stocks or mutual funds for your 401(k). And if push comes to shove you could borrow from your 401(k), which means you would be borrowing from yourself and the interest you would pay you would be paying yourself. And that’s not a really bad deal.

You should be a master of automation

You should by now have learned how to master the art of automation. If you send a chunk of your salary automatically to your savings every month you would be paying yourself first. And when you save money, you can tap into the power of compounding interest. This is when you earn interest on your savings, which is added to your savings and you then earn interest on it. If you automatically save as little as $50 a month for 30 years you would end up a millionaire – thanks to the power of compounding interest.

You should have a Roth IRA

If you have a conventional IRA, good for you. That’s money that you save pretax, meaning it’s money you don’t have to pay taxes on. However, the downside to this is that you will have to pay taxes on the money when you begin withdrawing it. In comparison, with a Roth IRA you pay taxes on the money you deposit into the account but it’s then tax-free when you withdraw it.

You should have written a will

None of us wants to think about our “final destination” but there’s no way to avoid the fact that your life will ultimately come to an end. If you don’t have a will, you will die intestate. If this occurs, a person will be named as your executor and will decide what happens to your property. Under intestate succession laws only spouses, and registered partners (if you live in a state where that’s an option) and blood relatives can inherit. This means any friends, unmarried partners or charities would get nothing despite any intentions you might’ve had to the contrary. So, if you haven’t done this already, go to an attorney or a site such as LegalZoom and get a will prepared That way you will be able to control exactly where your money and your properties go.

You should be paying off your high interest debts

If you haven’t done this already you need to sit down and make a list of your debts in order from the one that has the highest interest rate down to the one with the lowest. Once you have your debts prioritized, you need to concentrate on paying off the one that has the highest interest rate. Of course, you will need to continue to making at least the minimum payments on your other debts. But when you pay off the one that has the highest interest rate, you automatically save the most money, which you can then use to begin paying off the debt with the second highest interest rate and so on.

You should have a decent credit score

If you’ve been handling your finances sensibly, which means keeping your credit card debts under control, you should by now have a fairly decent credit score – of 750 or above. Most lenders look at credit scores in ranges as follows.

  • Very good or excellent – between 700 and 850
  • Good credit score – between 680 and 699
  • Average credit score – between 620 and 679
  • Low credit score – between 580 and 619
  • Poor credit score – between 500 and 579
  • Bad credit score – between 300 and 499

If you haven’t seen your credit score recently, you can get it from www.myfico.com for $19.95 or free if you sign up for a trial of the company’s Score Watch program. It’s also possible to get a version of your credit score at sites such as www.creditkarma.com. If you have a credit score lower than 680, you may have some work ahead of you to get it raised. The reason for this is because there’s an indirect ratio that exists between your credit score and how much interest you will be charged on a credit card or a loan. In other words, the higher your score the lower interest rate you will be charged.

You should have already read several good personal finance books

While some people like to think you can master personal finance instinctually, this is just not the case. If you really want to be on top of your personal finances you need to have by now read several books. If not, you need to get to work. You should probably start with Your Money or Your Life ($12) and Total Money Makeover ($18). Beyond these, the simple fact is that you just can’t read too many books about money management.

You should know how to negotiate

Finally, by now you should have had some practice negotiating – over your salary, with service providers and others. While there are areas where it’s simply impossible to negotiate – like at your neighborhood supermarket – there are also many other areas where you can save money if you know how to negotiate successfully. If not, here’s a video with some good information about the art of negotiating.

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