Close your eyes and visualize your dream vacation or the shiny new car that you’ve always dreamed of having. Sure, looks great! Unfortunately, for many of us the planning stops right there. But with a little planning and discipline, the likelihood of achieving our goals can be dramatically improved. Consider implementing one, if not all, of the strategies listed below to improve your financial picture.
- Write down your financial goals and objectives and include deadlines. This will help you stay focused.
- Use credit cards as little as possible. Financing your lifestyle with credit cards is a trap. Reach for your checkbook instead.
- Pay off your credit cards each month. With the new minimum payment requirements of around four percent, consumers will get out of debt more quickly. For example, on a $2,000 credit card bill at 18 percent interest, paying the former two percent minimum will still leave you paying 30 years from now. The interest will cost you more than $5,000 on the $2,000 charge. By making the new four percent minimum payment, you will finish up in about 10 years, and the interest will be roughly $1,100.
- Spend a little, but save a little more. As your debts are paid off, save the “extra” cash each month. Many people are tempted to overspend with the “extra” cash.
- Keep a savings balance of at least six months of expenses. This cash cushion can be used when emergencies arise instead of charging on credit cards.
- Map out a college savings plan and begin funding early.
- Manage taxes early in the year and look for deductions, credits and deferral of income to reduce your tax bill. The savings on taxes can be used for other goals.
- Go for steady, consistent, long-term growth in your investment. By the time you read about a “hot tip,” it’s usually cold.
- Protect your valuables and income earning potential with appropriate insurance policies, including mortgage, life and disability policies.
- Invest for retirement. At best, Social Security will cover only a fraction of the money you will need for retirement. Talk to your financial advisor about preparing for a comfortable retirement.
- Create an estate plan. Many people think you must be super-wealthy to do estate planning, which is not true. Avoiding probate and passing assets to heirs estate-tax-free, are the main goals.
Your financial advisor, CPA and attorney will be able to assist in reaching all of these goals. As the saying goes, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” It’s never too late to begin taking a look at your financial picture and get on board with a real plan for your and your family’s future. IBI