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3 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Finances in the New Year

3 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Finances in the New Year


    Who wants to end 2012 even better financially? You need more than just a “that sounds like a good idea” attitude to make that happen.

    So let’s not waste anymore time, shall we?

    Here are three actions you can take now — before we even hit 2012 — to end next year with a better balance than this year.

    1. Know Your End Game

    What kind of financial standing do you want to end up with in December 2012? Take some time now to plan your financial goals.

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    I recommend figuring out how things went this year. What were you happy about? What could have gone better financially? Were there any bad choices made? Be completely honest with yourself.

    Now think, if you were looking back on 2012 and reveling in how amazing it was for you financially, what would it look like? No, this isn’t “pie in the sky” or “winning the lottery” type of imagining. Figure out logically what you should shoot for.

    If you make your goal too big your brain will start to stress over not yet achieving it.

    Just thinking about what you want isn’t enough though. Try to set your goal in stone.

    After interviewing 50 millionaires, I’ve learned that they do a lot after the goal is set. They use vision boards, goals written on whiteboards, or put goals on post-it notes on their laptops. Then they break down the goal to figure out what they need to do to achieve it.

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    “When I have a goal I’ve written it down and then I know I need to make this happen to achieve the goal. What my action steps are for today, tomorrow, this week, next week, for this whole month, etc.” – Vonda White, CEO of Collegiate Risk Management

    Millionaires don’t do anything crazy or different than the typical advice you have heard about setting goals. Their success lies in that they actually take action to write them down, see them every day and commit to working on them each week.

    Action: Create your End Game in visual form that you will see it every day. Break it down into weekly goals and commit to them.

    2. Get Accountability

    Finances are still a taboo subject. It may mean fighting over money with your significant other, or being hush-hush on how much money you make in the workplace. We tend to complain about money in public. It seems socially acceptable to talk about being broke, or getting good deals on stuff but not about giving advice and helping each other out.

    If you want to win in 2012 with money you can’t be silent. I know this from experience. I was $70,000 in debt and didn’t even realize it. Only when I was able to start talking about it — and doing something about it — did things change. I paid off all $70,000 in 16 months.

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    So find someone that you can talk to and keep you accountable. Find a friend that wants to work on their finances in 2012 too. If you are married, your first choice should be your husband or wife so you can create a strong bond around your finances (but if money is a sore subject though you may need to find a friend you trust instead).

    Set up a weekly or bi-weekly chat with each other. Talk about great choices you’ve made, and what you want to do better in the weeks to come. You can also help each other brainstorm about ways to hit your goals. Commit to that meeting. It will give your finances the attention they need to achieve your goal.

    Action: Email your trusted friend or significant other asking them to help you be accountable in 2012.

    3. Be Thankful

    We all want things to improve next year. I know from working with many clients, we tend to focus on what we don’t want, or how much better things will be when we achieve our goals in the future.

    It’s not about that at all.

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    It’s about appreciating your financial situation now. Even if it’s not what you want. Most likely you have a computer and are reading this on your Internet connection, or maybe even at work. That means you have much more than most people on this planet.

    Make sure your 2012 includes ways to show your gratitude for all that you have. We have so much to be thankful for and sometimes it’s hard to remember that.

    Create a thankful routine. A thankful routine is just something you decide to do when you are feeling down about your money situation, or you aren’t making as much progress as you want to. It might involve writing down a few things you are thankful for, giving a small amount of money or time to someone who needs it more, or even calling family or a friend to remind them how much you love them.

    Money isn’t everything.

    Action: Create your thankful routine. Just pick one thing you want to do when you attitude about your fiances shift negatively.

    Enjoy your 2012. What are your plans to make it the best year yet?

    (Photo credit: Calculator and Money via Shutterstock)

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    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

    Reference

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