You need not wait for 2019 to plan improvements to your finances. You can begin now. Fall is a good time to assess where you stand and where you could be. The last few months of 2018 give you a prime time to examine critical areas of your budget, your credit and your investments.
You could work on your emergency fund (or your rainy day fund). To clarify, an emergency fund is the money you store in reserve for unforeseen financial disruptions; a rainy day fund is money saved for costs you anticipate will occur. A strong emergency fund contains the equivalent of a few months of salary, maybe even more; a rainy day fund could contain as little as a few hundred dollars.
Optionally, you could hold this money in a high-yield savings account. A little searching may lead to a variety of choices; as of September, it is not hard to find accounts offering 1.5 percent or more annual interest, as opposed to the common 0.1 percent or less. Remember that a high-yield savings account is intended as a place to park money; if you make regular deposits and withdrawals to and from it, and treat it like a checking account, you may incur fees that diminish the savings progress you make.1
Review your credit score. Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report at each of the three nationwide credit reporting firms (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) every 12 months. Now is as good a time as any to request these reports; visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to order them. At the very least, you will learn your credit score. You also may detect errors and mistakes that might be harming your credit rating.2
Think about the way you are saving for major financial goals. Has your financial situation improved in 2018, to the extent that you could contribute a little more money to an IRA or a workplace retirement plan now or next year? If you are not contributing enough at work to receive a matching contribution from your employer, maybe now you can.
Also, consider the way your invested assets are held. What are your current and future allocations? Some people have heavy concentrations of equities in their workplace retirement plan, IRA or brokerage account due to Wall Street’s long bull market. If this is true for you, there may be some pain when the next bear market begins. Check in on your portfolio while things are still bullish.
Can you spend less in 2019? That might be a key to saving more and putting more money into your rainy day or emergency funds. If your pay has increased, your discretionary spending does not necessarily have to increase with it. See if you can find room in your budget possibly to cut an expense and redirect the money into savings or investments.
You also may want to set some near-term financial goals for yourself. Whether you want to accomplish in 2019 what you did not quite do in 2018, or further the positive financial trends underway in your life, now is the time to look forward and plan.
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This material was prepared by MarketingPro Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note: Investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 – thesimpledollar.com/best-high-interest-savings-accounts/ [8/31/18]
2 – ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/get-my-free-credit-report [9/6/18]
By Don Akridge, MBA, CFP, CPA/PFS, U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Emory University alumnus, and contributing writer. Citadel Professional Services, LLC