Did you stick to your resolutions this year? If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t make it past the first few months. The good news is it’s almost time to hit the reset button and start fresh. Whether you want a bigger bank account or less debt, we have some tips to make this a prosperous New Year.
Resolution #1: Get serious about saving for retirement
56 percent of people don’t save for retirement because they can’t imagine their lives that far down the road, a recent Prudential quiz revealed. Whether you can envision it or not, we’re all getting older and saving for retirement needs to be a priority. If your employer offers retirement benefits, enroll in the plan and contribute enough to receive the company match. Ideally, you want to save 10-15% of your yearly income. Alternatively, you can open an IRA and try to max it out by the end of the year. For 2017, the IRA contribution limit is $5,500 ($6,500 for those aged 50 or older). The earlier you get the ball rolling, the more time your money has to grow. Plus, your contributions may lower your tax bill and get you a bigger refund. The fastest and easiest way to do your taxes is with ezTaxReturn.com.
Resolution #2: Learn more about personal finance
When asked to grade themselves on their knowledge of personal finance, only 56% of U.S. adults gave themselves an A or B, per the 2016 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey. For many people, understanding how to properly budget, manage and invest money is a struggle. Hence, why the average American household carries around $16,000 of credit card debt. To help make better financial decisions, dedicate the year to learning everything there is to know about money. Attend seminars, follow your favorite financial experts on social media and read at least one money-related book a month. The goal is to soak in as much information as possible so you can avoid the traps others have fallen into.
Resolution #3: Find creative ways to save
Tired of struggling to build your emergency fund? Make this the year you finally get over the hump. While you can always get a second job, there are easier ways to find extra money. Whenever you get back loose change from a purchase, throw it in a jar. Once it’s full, wrap up the coins and deposit the money into your bank account. Some people have been able to save around $1,000 a year just by holding on to their change. If you’re an avid soda drinker, you can also make money by trading in the empty bottles and cans at your local supermarket. Depending on where you live, you can earn 2-15 cents per item. It might not sound like much but it will add up over time. For those who prefer a more traditional approach, create a budget and look for areas where you can reduce your spending.
Resolution #4: Pay off your debt
With credit card interest rates expected to rise as early as January, now’s the perfect time to pay off your debt. Start by gathering your bills and placing them in order from the smallest balance to the highest. From there, pay as much as you can towards the smallest bill while making minimum payments on the rest. Once that bill’s out the way, move on to the next lowest balance. Continue this process until all the bills have been paid off.
Resolution #5: Develop a plan for your estate
We hate to be a buzzkill but at some point, we’re all going to die. When your time comes, you want to have a will in place so your loved ones can get what they rightfully deserve. Most people can easily create their own will using online software but you’ll need to have it signed and dated by two adult witnesses. Choose people who have nothing to gain from the contract so there isn’t a conflict of interest. If your family size has recently changed, go through your accounts and update your beneficiary information. This may mean cutting someone off or adding someone new. While you’re at it, choose a medical and financial power of attorney. This will give someone the right to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.