5 steps to your financial fitness
It’s common that the end of the year makes us reflect on the past, and create some type of expectations for the time to come. Most of us wish/make resolutions for health, money, and/or love. Since my focus is mostly financial, I’m proposing five ways to improve your personal finances for this year. They’re also solid foundations for life.
Because January starts it all: your taxes
At the end of that month we will all receive the tax forms so that we can file. This year: why don’t you fill out your filing early? It will save you the stress that late filings bring and, depending on your filing results, you’ll have a nice early surprise or you’ll know how much you owe.
And if you do owe, by filing early you’ll have extra time to have the money ready when tax day comes. This way, you can manage your money with less pressure not just now, but for the rest of the year as well.
Prepare a budget
If you follow this blog, at some point you might have done our budget exercise to learn how you spend your money. If you haven’t this is the best time to start; it will allow you to start 2019 with clear financial goals in mind.
You see, your budget not only shows how you’re spending your money; it helps you identify possible source of savings, and it teaches you to set short- and long-term savings goals. It’s the foundation of your financial wellness.
There’s no better time than the new year to look at your budget so that you can make plans, both for saving and spending. If you’ve never considered a budget, here’s an informative module that explains what a budget is and does. If you want to learn, check out our article, which also includes the spreadsheet you’ll need, and helps you read your results.
That rainy day fund
Savings can be divided into three main categories:
- Money for unexpected needs,
- Money for retirement, and
- Other savings.
You should work on saving in this order. Why? Because that fund for unexpected needs is the one that will provide you peace of mind. It will let you sleep, knowing that if there’s a leak at home, your card breaks down, or your fridge stops working overnight, you have the money to handle those things. This is an account that you should always have replenished and set aside. If you don’t have this type of savings yet, and you’re member of OAS FCU, I’d suggest to start with a Junior Share Certificate.
It’s an account that you open with $500, and every month you agree to transfer at least $50 to it. Once the balance reaches $2,500, the credit union lets you know and you close the account. At that point, you have $2,500 that you can put into savings or reinvest in a share certificate of a different kind.
I can’t think of a better way to get started; you save little by little, with as little or as much as you can manage, and knowing the money is safe from temptation. When you reach the $2,500 you will have a well-funded rainy day fund.
Take control of your credit report
OAS FCU’s business is that of providing deposit and loan accounts to its members. However, any loan that you take out -be it from OAS FCU or form elsewhere-, will depend on your credit report.
The information on your credit report, which also comprises your credit score, comes from sources that are entirely up to you. Knowing what factors make up your report, and avoiding the mistakes that can damage it, are the keys to better loan terms in the future. That’s why I suggest you get your free annual credit report right away:
- Request it at freecreditreport.com.
- Study it to make sure there are no mistakes (and correct any you find).
- Improve it.
If there is little information on your report, or if you’ve made mistakes that affect your credit now: this article will help you make basic, needful changes to start building credit.
If you already have a good credit history, then it’s the perfect time to work on perfecting it.
Saving for retirement
It’s easy to leave long term savings plans for later, and use the money now. However, retirement planning is something we all need to assume. First you’ll need to learn about different retirement plans and options. OAS FCU has The Path to a Comfortable Future, a series of modules that show you everything you need to know:
- 529 plans
- 401(k) plans
- IRA and other retirement savings
Not only that: through OAS FCU and their associate investment companies, you’ll have access to all of these accounts and investments.