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8 Things Couples Must Do Now for a Financially Secure Future

8 Things Couples Must Do Now for a Financially Secure Future

Whether you’re newlyweds, in a long-term relationship, or several years into a happy marriage, there are many steps you can take to ensure a financially secure future.

It’s wise to look at this from two points of view; first, what can be done to help the two of you remain secure throughout life, including your retirement? Secondly, determine what needs to happen right now for each of you to have financial security if one of you were to pass away at a young age.

Fortunately, this process doesn’t have to be nearly as difficult or time-consuming as most people fear. By making a few simple lifestyle changes and taking care of some critical paperwork, you can have a better future.

1. Make Wills

It’s always important to make a will in order to protect your partner. However, this is especially true if you aren’t married. After all, the state will be given the duty of dividing your estate if you die without a will, and this process always favors blood relatives.

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This doesn’t mean that married couples don’t need to worry about a will, though. Although your spouse is most likely to get the majority of your estate from the state if no will is present, the process of dividing everything could impose costly taxes on them that can often be avoided with a legal will.

2. Get Life Insurance

Both of you should have life insurance that names your partner as the beneficiary. There are many types of life insurance available, so be sure to take some time to research your options. For example, the Ladder online life insurance calculator helps you look at many aspects of your financial needs that may otherwise be forgotten.

By factoring in your remaining mortgage amount and other existing debts, you can get a clearer picture of how much coverage will be necessary for your partner to survive financially when you pass away. Doing this for each other is one of the best ways to show love because it ensures you’re each safeguarded and won’t need to sell your house in order to survive.

3. Determine Your Priorities

Most people could easily blow through millions of dollars if given the opportunity, but since this isn’t likely to happen, the two of you need to determine what your top priorities are. For some couples, this means living in a cheap apartment so that they can travel and build a retirement account. For others, a nice house is more important. By deciding what your top priorities are, you can adjust the rest of your life to continue saving money, while simultaneously improving your quality of life.

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4. Take Care of Your Health

A study by the American Heart Association indicated that exercising 30 minutes a day, five times a week, can reduce your annual healthcare expenses by $2,500. If you add in a healthier diet filled with vegetables and fruit, you’ll be in a good position to save even more money!

Commit to exercising and eating right to bulk up your retirement savings account, boost your life expectancy, and make it easier to enjoy your twilight years. After all, no one wants to spend the latter portion of their life feeling physically debilitated by medical issues that could have been avoided with a proactive approach.

5. Simplify Your Lifestyle

Take a look around your home. Is it filled with objects you don’t need and never use? Do you have a cable plan that includes hundreds of channels you’ve never watched? Is it common for you to buy new clothes before your current ones get anywhere near worn out? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you can save money by simplifying your lifestyle.

Reduce your cable plan or cut the cord entirely to save money. Start buying items only if they have a truly useful and practical purpose. Stop spending so much on clothing, especially if most of it hangs in your closet untouched for months at a time. Instead, put the money you would have spent on these things into your retirement account. You’ll thank yourself when you get older.

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6. Set Up an Auto Transfer

For many people, the process of taking money out of their paycheck and moving it into a savings account is where everything breaks down. People forget, or they end up spending the money on something frivolous.

Stop this breakdown in its tracks by setting up an automatic transfer. This will take the money out of your checking account and move it into your savings account for you. Experts recommend putting 10 to 15 percent of your net income into your retirement account. Overall, saving 20 percent is best because this allows you to also build a nest egg for emergencies.

7. Chip Away at Your Debt

Whether it’s a mortgage, credit cards, or old debt that’s hanging around your neck like an albatross, you must clear away this financial responsibility to boost your ability to save for retirement. It’s common for people to pay the minimum due on their debts, but this will drag your payments out for an extremely long period of time. Instead, even if you can only afford an extra $5 to $10 per month, be sure to always pay more than the minimum due.

It’s also wise to pick the debt with the highest interest and work on paying that one down as quickly as possible. Once you zero out a balance, start paying extra toward the next debt in line. According to Bank of America, paying just $10 more per month on a credit card balance of $1,500 with an APR of 18 percent will save you $1,202.41 in interest fees. The card will also be paid off in less than 4 years, instead of it taking an astounding 13 years.

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8. Make Wise Financial Decisions

One of the things that makes it heartbreakingly easy for people to lose everything is the tendency many of us have to overextend ourselves financially.

A great example can be found with people who agree to a mortgage that leaves them with no wiggle room for emergencies. In other words, if you and your spouse make a combined $7,000 a month, but your mortgage, bills, and other necessary expenses cost $7,000, you are setting yourself up for disaster.

Always make sure that you set up your expenses with a cushion of at least 20 percent. This makes it possible to build a savings account, and it also makes it less catastrophic if someone gets sick or loses their job.

It may seem daunting to make lifestyle changes and take on vital steps such as writing your wills, but this is the best way to have a happy, financially secure future. Don’t forget that exercising and eating healthy are also critical for future financial and physical health. As an added bonus, there are many proven ways to save money while eating healthier.

Begin implementing these changes right now to reduce your future risks.

Featured photo credit: Kan Wu via flic.kr

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Holly Chavez

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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