We all get check-ups to make sure our bodies are well and tune-ups to make sure our cars are running smoothly. But when was the last time you checked in on your financial health? If it’s been a while, we’ve got some tips to help you get started.
1. Dust Off Your Budget
If you haven’t been following a budget lately, now is the time to jumpstart the habit. A budget is your best tool for tackling any financial difficulties and achieving goals for future you! Budgeting lets you plan how you want to spend your money, while tracking your spending habits. When you track your spending consistently and stay on budget, you can start making things happen so that you reach your financial goals. Budget apps like Mint make it easy to connect to your bank account and see where your money goes. After you’ve done that, it’s up to you to split your income between bills, necessities, savings, and fun.
If you’ve already set up a budget, this step should be simple. Take a second look at where your money goes. It’s easy to overlook your gym membership getting more expensive or your car insurance going up a couple bucks. Those types of changes can add up quickly and have a big impact on your financial life.
No matter your starting point, once you’ve gone through your budget, it’s easier to search for places where you’re overspending. Are you really using all of your subscription services? Do you need to be celebrating Taco Tuesday that often (and did you need that extra margarita)? Can you stream a little less and get a smaller data plan? Try it! We believe in you.
2. Set it and Forget it!
Have trouble saving as much as you should? You’re not alone! Consider harnessing the power of automatic savings contributions. Having money taken out of your paycheck before you see it, streamlines the savings process and curbs temptation. It’s hard to spend money you don’t gain access to, whether by having money from each paycheck filter directly into a savings account or into your company’s 401(k). If you already have automatic deposits set up for your emergency fund and retirement accounts, nice work! Now consider increasing your contributions.
Once you automate your savings, take it a step further and automate your bill pay. You should always review your bills for accuracy, but paying at least some of them automatically will save you some hassle—and ensure your payments are always on time. To prevent any account-draining surprises, you may find it better to only automate bills that are the same every month (like your cable bill), rather than ones that vary every month (like your credit card bill).
3. Give Your Credit a Checkup
Credit Scores are often used as the barometer of your financial health. The higher your score, the more financially stable you seem. Knowing your credit score is essential—in the words of the old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons, “Knowledge is Power”. Even if the number isn’t as high as you’d like, your financial picture can’t get better until you have a picture of where you’re starting from.
Approximately 36 billion pieces of credit data are reported every year, so reporting mistakes are nearly inevitable. Since errors in your public records, personal information, and credit accounts can cause your credit score to tank, it’s important to keep a close eye on your credit. Any credit accounts listed that don’t belong to you could be a tip-off to identity theft or credit card fraud.
Luckily, you can request a free credit report every year from each of the three major consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Or do it our favorite way, which is to request one free report from a different bureau every four months and monitor your credit throughout the year.
So, what’s on your financial to-do list? If it’s learning about retirement options, we can help! Learn how you can get on the path toward a financially secure future with Ubiquity
4. Take a Peek at Your Debt
It’s really easy to put your head in the sand and not acknowledge the debt you have. Look at your credit card balances and other loans. Has your level of debt changed since the last time you checked? If it has decreased, way to go! You’re on your way. If it has increased, maybe it’s time to look at your budget again and find where you’re overspending. This is also a good time to check your interest rates,and see if you’re in a position to save by refinancing.
5. Review Your Retirement Plan Contributions
There’s no question that saving consistently for retirement is an important step toward a more financial future. By starting to save as much as you can now, you will have the freedom to choose how you want to live when you retire. And since your 401k contribution comes out of your check pre-tax, you lower your taxable income. In a way, it’s like paying for your 401k with money that you otherwise would have spent on your taxes. In 2018, you can contribute up to $18,500 to your 401(k) if you’re under 50 or $24,500 if you’re 50 or older.