Happy New Year! It’s a brand-new start on our calendars, the chance to start making better choices and stop doing the things that weren’t very good for us in the first place.
Not surprisingly, 46 percent of consumers are making resolutions to improve their finances in 2013. That is wonderful, and I certainly hope they are successful. One of the best ways to get started on this life-changing journey is to review and renew the basics.
It should be no surprise to anyone that my advice is simplistic. It is founded on the basic principles of saving, spending and doing something smart with the difference.
Most people want to read articles about the “doing something smart with the difference” part. I agree; those are fun and they stretch our minds to the possibilities of how taking our little bit of savings can turn it into an income stream that will afford us the ability to do anything we want. Hope, excitement and dreams are wrapped up in the future of our money, aren’t they? Who doesn’t like to dream?
No matter what age, income level or marital status, good financial health begins with the basics. In my opinion, everyone should have:
Insurance And A Will
Wow! Jump right into it, Steve. Go right for the mortality angle. If you are single and nobody is depending on your income, then you can skip right past this important topic.
The basics of personal finance include planning for the inevitable. None of us gets out of here alive, so it would be nice to leave some money for our heirs. They’ll remember you more fondly because of it.
A will is super important, too. My wife and I didn’t do one until our daughter was 4 years old. We put it off, thinking there was plenty of time. Thank God we were right. What is funny is how relieved we were once the notary validated our document. What were we worried about?
It sure feels good to have a will. It’s also cool to think that we can give gifts in the afterlife.
A Spending Plan
Successful businesses forecast their spending, and Americans feel like they got a raise whenever they stick to a pre-determined spending plan. A monthly dose of vitamin B would prevent anyone from having a visa headache, especially in January, if they just spent 10 minutes creating a budget and a few minutes every week to makes sure they are on track.
An Emergency Fund
Nobody can predict the future, and nothing on this Earth is without flaw. Things deteriorate, break or disappear. People get sick, cars have flat tires, and things get misplaced or stolen. Having an emergency fund — even $1,000 — can give anyone the confidence to weather a small storm like missing work because of a cold or paying the deductible from a fender bender.
A Debt-Elimination Or Debt-Avoidance Plan
Want to become wealthy someday? Get out of debt and stay out of debt. Don’t let the banks pull one over on you; nobody is getting rich off their credit card reward points or benefiting from a car loan. Yes, free stuff is fun. And a new car is a wonderful thing, but car payments are not.
A debt-avoidance plan is simply a savings or investment plan where money is put aside for things you need, want or will have to replace in the future. Have you ever paid cash for a car? We haven’t yet, but our next vehicle purchase will be paid in full before we ever turn the key. I can’t wait for that conversation on the drive home.
What’s your 2013 resolution? If you are one of the 46 percent who decreed improving personal finances, then I encourage you to spend a couple hours reviewing the basics.
Have I left anything out? Please leave a comment, and let’s start a conversation.
— Steve Stewart