Resolutions. I was not going to post New Years resolutions since they are everywhere...however, I can’t pass up this opportunity. Beyond the perennial lose 10 pounds, start excising, or stop smoking; here are a few goals to consider for your financial health. I plan on revisiting these goals more indepth on future blogs…so I’ll try to be brief for now.
- Have an emergency fund established with at least 3 months of living expenses in an accessible account. You can also use a HELOC for an emergency fund account IF you have the discipline to leave it alone. A HELOC can be an excellent tool and should be applied for before you have an emergency situation (loss of employment, medical, or a tree landing on your house from sweet Mother Nature) and may not be able to obtain one. In the event of an emergency, do you have your finances organized? A recent article I read from the Financial Planning Association recommends having copies of all your pertinent financial documents in a binder that you can find quickly in the event you need to evacuate your home.
- Know your score, or at least what is being reported on your credit history currently. Credit scores are not only used for determining what mortgage programs and rates you qualify for. They also impact insurance, credit card rates and auto loans to name a few. In addition, reviewing your credit will help determine if you credit is being used without your knowledge (identity theft). You can visit www.annualcreditreport.com for a free credit report. This is provided by the “big 3 bureaus” and it may not provide your score without paying an additional fee. As you are allowed one report from each bureau annually, I would recommend that you pull your report from one bureau every four months to keep a constant monitor on your credit activity. There may be simple ways to improve your credit score that you can determine once you have the information available.
- Create or review your Will. I had a pretty cheesy will until I married last year. My husband and I spent quite a bit of time with an attorney to make sure we have everything set up as we wish it to be instead of letting the government have it. You would be surprised how easy, with home values, a retirement account, etc. that your net worth can grow. Whether you have children or not, a will is a must. After you have a will, it’s a good idea to have your information organized for your loved ones. A great website to check out is www.readyornot.biz.
- Get a mortgage check-up. If your mortgage has an adjustable rate (ARM), if you are paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) or if you have two mortgages on your home, this could be a great time to review your current scenario to see if you can reduce your monthly payments. There is no sense in paying more than you need to, unless you plan on selling the home soon. An Annual Mortgage Review is more in-depth than checking out your mortgage to current rates and products.
- Eliminate credit card debts. It is too easy to fall into credit card debt. Banks do not want you to ever pay them off with all the interest they earn. Start with paying additional towards your smaller debts and then work toward the next one. This is a slow process, but worth it. It is boggling how much the interest can mount up on these types of loans with no tax benefit to you. Improving monthly cash flow reduces stress and allows you to eventually save for more important life items such as retirement and college.
I know this is a few days past New Years…however, it’s always relevant. I wish you and yours a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Cheers!