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10 Financial Moves You Need To Make This Year

10 Financial Moves You Need To Make This Year

Whatever past mistakes you’ve made, 2014 is the year to change your habits. I’ve noticed I’m an impulse spender who always looks forward to that next big purchase. No matter how much money I make, it never feels like enough, as I’m always filling previous voids. In order to break that habit, I sought the advice of several financial analysts and life coaches. Each helped me identify trends in my personal life that affect my finances. To combat it, we’ve come up with a list of financial moves I need to make this year, and you should too.

Assess Yourself

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    Smurfette wept at she stared at the pile of bills she earned at the strip club…

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    Take an objective look at your finances. Are you making enough to cover your spending while paying your past financial obligations and preparing for the future? If you’re spending based on future income, there’s an issue. You need to look at the numbers involved in your personal finance at least once a month to ensure you’re staying abreast of your current financial situation.

    T.J. Tillman, a founding partner at Empire Wealth Management says, “My recommendation is to have a hierarchical set of financial priorities and not stray from it.  The order would be (from bottom to top) paying for basic monthly expenses like food, shelter, etc., money set aside for emergency savings, money set aside for retirement, and then discretionary income to save up for major purchases. By following these guidelines, it’s possible to live a life with significantly less stress and still work towards those material things that are nice but not necessary.”

    Pay off Your Credit Cards

    Your highest interest rates are coming from your credit cards–and that’s just the start of where they get bad. Having revolving credit is only good for your credit if you have an abundance of available credit (money you could spend, but haven’t). Even this is only true of true credit cards; pre-paid credit cards don’t even report to your credit agency (you’re paying a fee to use your own money).

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    Paying off credit cards is a vital step in treading above financial waters. Pay off cards with the highest interest rates first, and know that if you took out any cash advances, that balance is paid off last (earning the banks the highest interest rate for as long as possible).

    Strengthen Your Reserves

    Every penny you save counts. Stop looking at bonuses as “free money.” In fact, stop looking at any money as free; you have to work for every cent. Stop discrediting the effort you put into your own personal blood, sweat, and tears, and instead start paying the most important bill of your life: your monthly payment to your personal savings account. You want to have at the ability to pay at least 3-6 months worth of bills in case an emergency comes up. You’re never 100% in control of your own income, and even if you were, life happens. Be prepared for an empty tanks with a reserve can just in case.

    Settle Your Debts

    It’s never fun owing anyone; I’ve never heard someone say, “I’m so happy I owe money to (insert anyone’s name).” Settling debts will strengthen your reputation and lift a mental burden from your shoulders. Instead of thinking about who you owe what to, you can concentrate on what’s important in life. “Karma is real, baby,” explains Life Coach Melanie Cobb. “Money can’t flow to you if your incoming channel is clogged with old resentments, guilt, or small stories.” Drop the guilt and clear those burdens off your plate.

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    Tired Until You’re Retired

    Unless you’re Benjamin Button, one day you’re going to get old. If you don’t start saving now, you’ll be one of those old people who’s still working. It’s easy to think you’ll never be that way, but it’s as inevitable as death if you don’t do something to prepare now. What if the world ended today? What if aliens invaded and are going to destroy the earth. You’re not on the president’s call list–he doesn’t even know you exist. So what will you do? If you don’t have a plan, you’re not a survivor of the zombie apocalypse; you’re a zombie.

    Habits Are Made to Be Broken

    Bad spending habits are the root of most people’s financial problems. Stores know this, and that’s why there are impulse items strategically placed throughout the store. In fact, nearly everyone is counting on you to spend money, and the only person you can count on to be responsible with your personal finances is yourself. Break free of bad spending habits by practicing discipline and focusing on your financial goals, rather than relieving your temporary cravings. Also a word of advice–eat before you go grocery shopping to keep from overspending.

    Review Your Permanent Record

    You need to check your credit report today; in fact it’s a good idea to check it at least once a month. Remember how you had a permanent record in school? Teachers would always threaten to list misdeeds on your permanent record. You couldn’t see your permanent record then, but you can check your credit report to ensure you truly are responsible for the financial decisions you’re being credited for. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

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    Be Open About Your Finances

    If you keep your finances a dirty secret, it’ll eventually come out the closet to bite you in the ass. You need to be honest with people–you don’t have to tell them how much money you make or have, but you don’t need to be ashamed to tell people you’re not willing to pay to go out because you’re currently saving. They may ask questions, but you can politely remind them that you’d rather not discuss finances whenever it gets too personal. You don’t need to broadcast your checking account balance; just don’t act like you have ends you don’t.

    Seek Professional Help

    There’s no shame in asking for help. Even Michael Jordan needed coaching. People like T.J. Tillman and Melanie Cobb represent an entire industry dedicated to coaching and motivating people through the tough financial times. It’s not necessary to take on the burden of all your debt and finances yourself. Cash rules everything around me, so it’s a pretty big deal that’s worth spending time discussing with a qualified professional.

    Be Realistic

    We all want to be billionaires and spend money on all the things Bruno Mars sings about, but we’re not all CEOs, so we’re not likely to have that chance. Be honest with yourself; you can lie to everyone else, but always be honest with yourself about where you actually are. You can’t find your destination if you don’t even know where you’re at. Realistically assess your resources and options, and stick to goals you can actually stick to; it may take a little suffering, but, with resourcefulness and perseverance, you can make the right financial moves this year to bring success to any endeavor.

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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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