Resolve To Be Financially Fit In The New Year
The New Year is a time for resolutions, reflection and planning, especially regarding your financial health.
Staying financially fit in tough times can feel like a grueling workout. But like exercise, the benefits of financial fitness are clear and achievable with some foresight and discipline. And some free help from the Internet.
“Sometimes taking the first step toward money management is daunting, with all the books and resources out there. But there are really just three rules to follow,” says Aaron Patzer, vice president and general manager of Intuit`s personal finance group. “Spend less than you earn, make your money work for you, and avoid the downside.”
Spend Less Than You Earn
This is the cardinal rule of personal finance, but one of the hardest to implement. Fortunately, there are free tools to assist even the most undisciplined when it comes to budgeting. For example, Mint.com allows users to see all their financial accounts in one place, makes it easy to set and stick to budgets, and helps find ways to save money.
If you don’t want to manage money online, try desktop personal finance tools, such as Quicken, which allows you to take control of your daily finances so you can worry less and lead a more balanced financial life. And if you’re a complete technophobe, a simple notebook or check register can suffice.
Make Money Work For You
Investing lets your money grow while you sleep. Nowadays, many Americans are dependent on 401k plans for retirement, but not everyone understands what they are, how they work, or if they’re a good deal. Web sites such as BrightScope.com rate 401k plans and give participants tools to make their plans better.
In addition to a 401K, consider other investments. The Internet can help here, too. For example, Betterment.com helps novice and seasoned investors grow their savings by investing in stocks and bonds. There’s no minimum balance, and transfers and trades are free.
Also, optimize all your accounts to maximize money saving opportunities. Make sure you have the best mortgage or loan through services like CreditSesame.com, or use Mint.com to find the best interest rates on credit cards, CDs, and savings accounts. And make sure you’re taking advantage of your credit cards’ special rewards. Try a service like Billeo.com, which highlights these deals when you’re shopping or searching online.
Avoid The Downside
Even the most disciplined can be thrown by unexpected events, like a serious illness, job loss or natural disaster. While these can dent your wallet, you can minimize damage by being properly insured.
Everyone should have a minimum level of health insurance, even if it’s just catastrophic coverage. Homeowners and motorists should make sure their property is covered, and parents should consider life insurance.
Keep these three rules of financial fitness in mind, and 2011 can become a year of personal growth!