Whether you're playing catch up on retirement savings, working to eliminate debt or building wealth, it pays to be financially savvy and to have your personal finances in order.
And it seems that Americans are improving on that front. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index’s weekly expectations rose to 61 from 59.6, according to a recent report. A measure of ratings about personal finances rose by the most in nearly four months, while outlook on the national economy also improved.
Gains in these components indicate consumers are becoming more optimistic after the recent political shut down and financial-market volatility that came with it, bringing the main gauge closer to the 17-year high of 61.6 that it reached in September of last year.
Here are some tips to keep improving personal finance decisions:
A recent poll found only about 1/3 of Americans (32%) maintain a household budget. Only 30% of Americans have a long-term financial plan that includes savings and investment goals. It was also found that you’re most likely to budget if you make at least $75,000 per year.
Online financial tools like Mint.com allow you to see your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, loans, and credit scores in one place in real time. And you have the ability to access that information anywhere, whether you’re on your work computer, smartphone or home PC.
The tool also allows you to create a custom budget, print reports, or export data into Excel or Quicken, which allows for easy collaboration with your tax preparer.
Find out what you are doing right
A lot of times we will try to fix what was wrong and don’t take time to reinforce the good habits and things that we were doing right. For example, if you are contributing to your savings regularly, recognize that this is a great habit to have, and continue supporting it. And if you can automate those activities, all the better, whether 401(k) payroll deduction or direct deposit from a bank account.
If you aren’t saving regularly, it’s never too late. Open a 401k or IRA and start saving now! Start an emergency fund. Think ahead and plan for a rainy day now, before you need an umbrella and a raincoat.
A 2017 report in MarketWatch found that half of all American households currently live paycheck-to-paycheck. And with regard to savings, 19% have $0 saved to cover emergency expenses, and 31% have less than $500 in emergency savings. Not surprisingly, about 49% of Americans are “concerned, anxious, or fearful about their current financial well-being.”
For obvious reasons, it’s a good financial habit to monitor your bank and credit card account activity on a regular basis. And fortunately, most financial institutions offer online alerts that do a lot of that monitoring for you. You can even set the dollar amounts for balances or purchases with some banks.
Additionally, for credit cards, you can set payment reminders. That way, if you won’t get hit with a late fee (which could be as much as $39 each time, according to CreditCards.com).
Transferring credit card balances on high-interest rate cards to one with a lower rate may help you consolidate your monthly payments and save on interest. Once you’ve done that, if you’re worried about using the cards again, shred them rather than canceling them. You’ll still have the credit line in your name, but you won’t have the temptation in your wallet.
Material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to be used in connection with the evaluation of any investments offered by David Lerner Associates, Inc. This material does not constitute an offer or recommendation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.
To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.
Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.
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David Lerner Associates does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances. Member FINRA & SIPC.