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Many Americans dutifully make New Year’s Resolutions, but unfortunately most get broken or forgotten before too long. So let’s not call these “New Year’s Financial Resolutions.” Instead, here are 13 smart financial steps that you can take to help get and keep your finances on track in 2013:
1. Establish a budget. Many people bristle at the mere mention of the “B” word: budget. But budgeting is the first step in gaining control of your finances – and it usually isn’t as difficult or painful as most people think.
2. Reduce your debt. Excessive debt is one of the biggest obstacles to financial security and independence, as well as to saving for a financially secure retirement. So begin planning now to pay down your outstanding debt as soon as possible.
3. Control your credit card spending. Credit cards are the biggest debt challenge for many Americans. If they are a big temptation for you, cancel them and only use cash and debit cards to pay for all future purchases.
4. Build an emergency fund. Some financial advisors recommend saving anywhere from three to six months of living expenses or more. The money should generally be kept in a liquid savings account (like a bank account or money market fund) that can be accessed easily to cover unexpected large expenses.
5. Increase retirement plan contributions.If you are saving money regularly in a qualified retirement plan, congratulations! Your next challenge is to increase your contributions – ideally, until you’ve reached the annual contribution limit for your plan. See if you are on track to meet your retirement goals with an online retirement calculator. David Lerner Associates offers a free, comprehensive calculator at www.davidlerner.com/retirement-calculator.aspx.
6. Think about long-term care. You may want to consider purchasing long-term care insurance to cover major healthcare and nursing home costs after you retire. This will depend on such factors as your age, how much you’re saving for retirement, and whether you will have retiree healthcare coverage from your employer.
7. Check your credit. You can get one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. By ordering a free credit report from each bureau every four months, you can carefully monitor your credit all throughout the year.
8. Protect yourself from identity theft. Identity thieves can wreak havoc on your financial life in no time. Be extremely careful not to inadvertently share personal information like your Social Security number or online banking logins or passwords with identity thieves, especially if you receive suspicious emails asking for this.
9. Save or invest your income tax refund. Or use it to pay down debt. Decisions like these may prove to be more financially beneficial over the long term than spending the money now.
10. Prioritize your long-term saving and investing goals. Many Americans today must choose between saving for retirement and for their children’s college educations. Many experts say that retirement saving should usually be the priority, since other sources of financing (like loans, scholarships and grants) may be available to help pay for college.
11. Review your insurance coverages.Sit down with your insurance agent and take a close look at your life, health, disability, homeowner’s and automobile insurance policies to make sure that you have adequate coverage in each of these areas, based on your assets, income and number of family dependents.
12. Waste less money. It can be easy to get into wasteful spending patterns without even realizing it. Daily stops for expensive cups of coffee, expensive cable packages for TV channels you never watch, and ATM fees are examples of seemingly small amounts of wasted money that can add up.
13. Strive for the proper work-life balance. While not necessarily a financial step, this may be the most important step to achieving happiness and fulfillment in 2013. Sit down with your family now and talk about what kind of work-life balance will allow everyone to enjoy the New Year to the fullest.
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. (DLA). This material does not constitute an offer or recommendation to buy or sell securities and should not be considering in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.