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Five Quick Money Tips for the New Year

Five Quick Money Tips for the New Year

Depending on your point of view, a glance at the calendar these days can elicit one of two responses: relief that 2016 is finally coming to an end, or panic that you have yet to set resolutions for 2017. While goals related to weight loss and health tend to be most popular each year, the hope to get a better hold on finances usually isn’t far behind. If you’re one of the many Americans looking to change their money-wasting ways in the coming year, here are a few quick tips for you.

Have a budget and stick to it.

Perhaps the single biggest personal finance mistake that many of us make is spending without tracking our purchases. Although just striving to keep your bank account in the black may work for a little while, it doesn’t leave room for error, not to mention emergency. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to create a real budget for yourself.

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Luckily, this process has now been made less painful as several apps (e.g. Mint, YNAB, and GoodBudget) allow you to set spending limits and will automatically categorize your purchases for you. Of course, you can always keep a spreadsheet of your own as well or use one as a backup. Lastly, if your addiction to plastic is really getting the best of you, try using the old school envelope method where you put cash (yes, cash) into folders labeled with each category of spending. Once your cash is gone, that’s it. You’ll quickly learn what areas you need to work on.

Up your 401(k) contribution.

With another year over, you are now another year older. Sorry to bum you out but it’s important to consider. Even though retirement might seem like an eternity from now, the truth is that you still need to be saving for it. One of the best ways to do that is by contributing to a 401(k).

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What’s great about 401(k)s is that in many cases your employer will match a certain percentage of the contributions you make and might also offer profit sharing. If you’re not taking advantage of this “free money,” you really should be. In fact, now is a great time to change your withholdings as open enrollment traditionally takes place at the beginning of each year.

Save more on your purchases by planning ahead and getting creative.

Impulse buying can lead not only to some ill-advised purchases but could also cause you to spend more than you need to. There are several ways to save money on the things you buy, but most of them involve planning.

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As someone who visits the mall on a weekly basis, one my favorite ways to save is to find an item I want, set a target price I’d be willing to pay for it, and then wait until it is marked down enough for me to buy. While that may be time-consuming, running a Google search for a coupon code before buying something online is super-fast and oftentimes very effective in helping you reach that important target price. Lastly, don’t forget to be creative and use loyalty offers, credit card rewards, and regular old coupons to your advantage— even all at once!

Start an emergency fund.

Speaking of planning, if 2016 taught us anything, it’s that the unexpected can happen. That’s why having an emergency fund is paramount to ensuring your financial security. Furthermore, in addition to having enough saved up to cover three to six months of essential bills should you lose your job, you might also want to consider having a separate fund for things like car repairs. With these savings in place, you’ll be able to make it through tough financial times without resorting to credit cards. If the worst does happen, you’ll be very thankful you were prepared.

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Consider a side hustle.

Obviously saving money is a big part of personal finance, but so is making money. Luckily, thanks to the Internet, you can now monetize more possessions, talents, goods, and services than ever before. As a result, maybe it’s time you considered pursuing a side hustle of your own. Whether that means blogging about your passions, using some of your free time to drive people around town, selling items you create yourself, or renting/selling items you don’t need, you may be surprised by what you can do and what you could earn. Why not give it a shot?

Happy New Year, everyone — here’s to a great 2017!

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

Are you on track for retirement?

If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

Saving for retirement is tricky.

Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

20’s – $16,000

During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

30’s – $45,000

At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

40’s – $63,000

This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

50’s – $115,000

During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

60’s – $172,000

By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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How to Save Money Each Month

By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

How?

By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

Why?

You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

By starting a side-business.

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This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

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