By Chad Fisher
A new year represents the opportunity to set goals that can enhance future health and happiness. While losing weight, finding a romantic partner and getting organized are all respectable goals, it’s also essential for a person to create realistic resolutions that can set them on the right track for a better financial future.
According to a Google Consumer survey commissioned by TransUnion, almost a quarter of Americans polled in August claimed that they had given up on their 2013 financial resolutions. For this reason, it’s important to create simple and measurable resolutions that are capable of being kept.
With the new year just around the corner, now is the right time to get back on track by considering a few finance resolutions that are easy to implement. By setting the following six goals, you can successfully save money and improve your finances for the upcoming year.
Curtailing expenses is an ongoing battle for many American consumers who know that any money they save can be redirected toward planning for their future. However, it’s impossible to spend less money without understanding exactly where your money is going throughout the year.
According to Forbes, the first step to take when planning your resolutions is to evaluate your expenditures. When doing so, be sure to include even minor purchases, such as beauty treatments or your morning coffee. Often, it is the minor purchases that add up over time, and many of these can be eliminated by performing the services yourself.
SAVE FOR RETIREMENT
With so much focus placed on saving on everyday expenses, it can be easy to forget about planning for your retirement.
If you’ve grown delinquent on your retirement savings, you’re not alone. Almost two-thirds of Americans have not been contributing correctly to retirement funds. If the company you work for offers a 401(k) plan, then Time magazine recommends raising your contributions. This is especially important if the company matches the amount you contribute.
Working with a financial planner is another effective way to save for your retirement, so that you can maximize your portfolio’s growth.
Making more money is a common goal among Americans today; however, few people take the initiative it requires to increase their income. While there might be factors you cannot always control regarding your pay rate, there are several things you can do to make this resolution come true.
Those who are currently employed in a career they find satisfying can take advantage of the new fiscal year and ask for a raise or promotion. If you are considering a new job or career, then going back to school can earn you the credentials to go after a position with a higher salary. Doing so might require an initial investment, but can lead to increased earnings (and potentially higher job satisfaction) over time.
BETTER MANAGE JOINT FINANCES
Couples who have joint finances frequently have one partner who is more involved with the financial planning than the other. Unfortunately, when one partner is left in the dark concerning the figures, it can lead to serious financial problems.
Those with joint accounts should set aside a time each month to go over the last month’s expenses and income. Each partner should have an input into how these joint accounts are managed in order for these shared finances to stay balanced.
ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY FUND
The average family should have approximately three to six months’ salary set aside in an account that is designated specifically for emergencies. This emergency fund should be able to cover all expenses, including mortgage and car payments, utility costs, and the necessities for daily living, in the event that a family member loses his job or falls ill.
Although this amount might be daunting, it can be achieved by making an effort to contribute a small amount to the account each month. Those who are not used to saving can set up automatic transfers from their accounts in an amount that will hardly be noticed.
PAY OFF DEBT
In addition to saving money for emergencies and retirement, it’s also important to pay off debt before it affects your financial standing. The first thing you should do to pay off debt is obtain a copy of your credit report so that you can clearly see all outstanding balances. With this report in hand, begin to work through each line of credit to determine which one can be paid off first. As a general rule, you should always aim to first pay off credit lines with the highest interest rates. Then you can begin to pay off any additional debt that is left over. Be cautious about opening any new credit lines that could affect your ability to pay current amounts owed.
As 2014 arrives, financial concerns should be at the top of your list of resolutions. By focusing on redirecting your savings toward retirement, scheduling sessions to communicate regarding joint finances and finding ways to increase your income, you can enter the new year with a refreshed outlook that will positively impact your future financial security.
Chad Fisher writes for GOBankingRates.com (