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Ideas to Improve Your Financial Health
No-one likes to be blindsided by financial hardship. Here are some ideas to help ensure your financial situation stays healthy.
Create a safety net. Plan to have a minimum savings balance to cover at least three months’ of expenses (ideally, this should be six to 12 months). If your reserves are light, start saving now. Even if it is a little amount, it can get you on the right track.
Develop a budget. At least once a year, develop a basic budget. Set goals and try to hit them. If this seems overwhelming, start simple. What is coming in and out each month? Becoming aware is the first step to improving your financial health.
Make your spouse a financial partner. If you die, does your significant other know where everything is? Can he/she pay the bills? Does he/she know where account numbers are? Does your spouse know who you use to help with things? If not, it is time to start talking.
Maximize your benefits. Make sure you review your retirement plans to maximize any employer match in your account.
Create a disaster plan. If your home burned down or was flooded, are your important records easily accessible and protected? If not, consider creating a disaster plan. This may include placing important documents in a safe deposit box in another location than your home.
Review your credit report. With the recent increase in identity fraud, plan to check your credit with the major credit agencies once a year. The agencies are legally required to make their report available to you annually without charge.
Manage your debt. Review your use of credit cards, loans, etc. Understand your net worth (assets minus liabilities). Make progress in reducing your debt load starting with the highest interest obligations first. Is your debt lower than it was last year?
Plan for fun. Just because you are taking steps to improve your financial situation doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun. Be smart about your entertainment spending. If you are planning a vacation, research money-conscience options and have a budget that fits in with your other financial goals.
This list is by no means complete, but if you focus on the areas mentioned, your financial life will become more planned and less likely to be struck by an unforeseen surprise.