Just like getting your annual physical, planning for an annual financial check-up is equally important. Matt Sorrells, branch manager at United Federal Credit Union’s new Asheville branch, recommends setting your goals at the beginning of the year so you can get the most out of your check-up.“ The start of a new year is the best time to make your financial resolutions,” says Sorrells. “It gives you the opportunity to start fresh with a plan that works for your current situation and gives you a renewed sense of determination to put it into action.”
Here are some quick and easy steps you can take to improve your financial wellness in 2017:
- Know your expenses: Make a list of every expense that you have, no matter how small. You might be surprised to learn when and how you spend your money, and if there are areas to improve and save.
- Eliminate high-interest credit cards: Following a busy holiday shopping season, you might find the balances on high-interest credit cards are coming back to haunt you. “Transferring your balance to a lower interest credit card could save you hundreds in interest,” said Sorrells.
- Make a savings plan: Whether you’re looking at an emergency savings account or taking a closer look at your 401(k), having a savings plan is crucial for long-term financial health. For an emergency fund, look at your monthly expenses and strive to save for three to six months’ worth of bills.
- Inspect your budget: Similar to knowing your expenses and creating a savings plan, getting familiar with your entire budget can help you maximize your income in 2017. “One of the biggest benefits to knowing your budget—income and expenditures—is having the ability to be flexible with your money depending on your family’s current situation,” said Sorrells. “Having financial agility means being able to save for a vacation in the summer without taking on debt, or taking on home repairs in the most responsible way possible; this could mean a credit card, home equity loan or cash. Knowing your budget and speaking with financial experts you trust, like those at United Federal Credit Union, will put you in the best situation to make the best decisions.”
- Set goals, and keep them: Whether you want to focus on savings, trimming costs for your budget, or growing your investment portfolio, the key to maintaining good financial health throughout the year is setting clear, attainable goals and keeping them. Unlike a resolution, setting a goal gives you the ability to check in often and make corrections if necessary. The most important tip: stick with your goal even if you have an off month or two. The goals provide focus to stay on track and achieve the results you outlined in the beginning.
A yearly financial check-up is much more than just saving or debt management. It provides a road map for the future, and gives you the knowledge and flexibility to be the chief financial officer of your family budget. Use these steps and add a few of your own so that at the end of the day, you are certain your hard-earned money doesn’t go to waste.