A 5-Step Checklist for Financial Health in 2017

Kathleen Hansen - 2016-12-28

A 5-Step Checklist for Financial Health in 2017

Set your family up for financial success with the SIMPLE resolutions:
Whether you want to be ensure your family is secure in the future, buy a new house or build a nest egg, here are five smart money moves you can make in the new year to set yourself up for success.
Owning life insurance isn't really about you - it's about your loved ones. If there are people in your life who depend on you financially, whether it be a spouse, kids or extended family members, a life insurance policy will ensure they're taken care of if the worst were to happen to you.
Many insurance companies make it easy for you to estimate how much your ideal policy will cost. And a quality term life insurance plan may be a lot more affordable than you think.
2. Balance your budget
If you don't want to do it old school, download a smartphone budgeting app, like Mint. With tools like these, you can automatically collect your bank account and credit card data in one place. You'll also get an immediate sense of your spending habits on a day-to-day basis with alerts and goal-setting features.
Once your necessary expenses are covered, prioritize paying down any high- interest debts you have. For most people, these are credit card and consumer debts - money you've borrowed to refurnish the living room last year and buy your new iPhone.
Negotiate with your creditors to bring the interest rate on your debts down. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, talk to your bank and figure out how you can lock in a low rate. Once you have lowered your interest rates as much as possible, use a debt payment calculator to create a plan for eliminating your obligations ahead of schedule.
No matter your money situation, Jan. 1 is a great time to think about where you want to be 10 years from now in terms of savings. Experts recommend setting aside enough money to cover three to six months of your expenses in savings in case of an emergency such as an unexpected job loss. If that level of savings seems entirely out of reach, don't panic.
David Bach, a writer on finance, coined the phrase "the latte factor," which refers to the large impact seemingly trivial everyday expenses can have. For instance if you frequently buy a $4 latte, you might not think much of it - but if you were to save $4 a day, you'd soon be sitting on a hefty chunk of change.
5. Invest what's left
It's not particularly exciting, but unless finance is your life, your investments should be boring and safe. If your employer offers a tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicle, like a 401(k), start by maxing out your employer's matching contribution to take full advantage.
Photo credit: Keith Cooper via Flickr
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