While we rang in the New Year a few weeks ago, it's still January after all, and planning for a fiscally stable and secure 2017 is still in the cards. Your resolutions to call your mom more frequently and give up chocolate may have already been broken, but financial fixes are always something to resolve to commit to.
Start simply with money-related changes that will benefit you and yours with the greatest impact for the long haul. Everyone can do better with financial planning and updates to their current habits and actions, so peruse these three resolutions to see if you can make some wise updates for the year to come.
Let's make 2017 your most financial stable yet and raise a glass to a prosperous year to come!
1. Budget and Track Spending
2017 is the perfect year to better budget and manage your spending habits. Even if you are savvy when it comes to shopping and saving, without a plan to follow and a way to keep tabs on spend, you are always susceptible to mismanage your finances or overspend without realizing it until the bills pile up.
Identify the major areas for which you need to spend money, be it home needs, educational costs for the kids, grocery shopping, etc. Based on your income and how much you need to save, list out how much you can afford to spend in each of these areas per month, with consideration for other costs such as gas, dining out, clothing, medical needs, etc.
As per Wallet Hub, The best way to make a budget is to gather your bills from the past few months and make a list of all your recurring expenses. Keep track of your ensuing monthly spending to make sure you're abiding by your budget."
If you need help with creating a budget that you can follow, consider a budgeting tool to guide you through the process. U.S. News & World Report identified 7 simple and free budgeting tools to lead the path for you financial planning.
With these tools, you will be more inclined to stick to your plans and easily adjust spending as the months change with possible income changes or new spending priorities.
2. Pay Off Credit
In order to dig yourself out of a financial hole bit by bit is to resolve to pay off those lingering credit card bills. Wallet Hub recommends to, "Repay 20% of your credit card debt. That would amount to about $1,680 for the average household, requiring monthly payments of $140 with a card offering 0% on transfers for at least 12 months." If you need assistance to work out the math, consider a credit card calculator to aid you.
Investopedia suggests, "Determine how much you can realistically afford to pay off during the year. For best results, try not to charge additional purchases on those cards while you're trying to pay down what you owe. If you have high interest credit card balances, consider whether it would be more beneficial to pay off those high interest debts or to add to your savings."
That said, before delving into a payment plan, be sure your credit information is accurate. U.S News & World Report suggests checking your credit report. "If you've stopped paying attention to your financial health, commit to requesting a free credit report on annualcreditreport.com."
As per Investopedia, "Review your credit report, and take steps to repair any negative aspects. A poor credit report could adversely affect the amount you are able to save, as it could result in you paying higher interest rates on loans, which reduces your disposable income."
Once you've cleared away any disputes or concerns, plan accordingly and see how much you can increase your pay off plan month by month until you're in the clear. Hopefully by 2018 you will enjoy a debt-free lifestyle!
3. Plan for Retirement
It's never too late to start thinking about the future, and saving for retirement can begin now if you haven't given it too much thought in the past. You're not getting any younger after all!
Investopedia recommends, "If you have access to a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan at work, consider instructing your employer to withhold enough through salary deferrals to ensure that you reach the maximum limit each year. If you'll be 50 or older by December 31, bump that amount to account for the additional catch-up contributions you're allowed to make."
U.S. News & World Report adds, "At the least, contribute enough to secure your employer's match, which is typically between 3 and 6 percent."
Review these retirement plan terms you should know so you're up-to-date on the lingo and terminology used when it comes to planning.
With strategic and steady planning and saving, your "golden years" will be free of financial worry and burden and you can retire with money to back you up.