Ready to create an amazing year for yourself? After some reflection on last year’s finances, you’re ready to think about how you’ll do more with your money in 2015! (If you’d prefer a cartoon version of kicking butt with your money goals in 30 minutes, head over to my friend, Stephanie Halligan’s blog, The Empowered Dollar. Otherwise, keep reading).
Here’s some motivation for you and your financial goals: people who say they want to accomplish specific things with their money, and create and plans of action for doing so are a successful crowd. 74% of those who set financial resolutions last year made progress towards their goals.
Here’s how you can get started on making a plan for your money in 2015 to join in on that success:
Understand Your Financial Picture
One of the most important things you can do to improve your financial outlook is to understand your current financial situation. It’s simple to get started. Just add up all your assets like your checking account, savings account, car, house, and investment account on a piece of paper. Then subtract your debts to calculate your net worth.
Are you in the red with a negative net worth? Make this the year you tackle your debt. Do you have a small amount of liquid savings or retirement investments? Make it your goal to save and invest more in 2015.
Prepare for Disaster with Proper Insurance
Don’t put your financial future at risk by going without insurance. No one wants to think about what could go wrong, but if the worst does happen you’ll be grateful that you got the right protection for your situation.
Check to make sure you have enough car insurance and your policy would cover your needs in the event of an accident. Similarly, make sure your home insurance or renter’s insurance is reasonable. If you have dependents, make this the year you finally get life insurance. You’d hate to leave your family in a desperate situation if something happened to you.
Tackle Your Debt
Take control of your finances by making 2015 the year you tackle your debt. A large debt balance is a huge hurdle towards creating a better financial future.
Avoid this emergency by taking a hard look at your debt. Make sure you understand your minimum payments, interest rates, and grace periods. Then, develop a debt repayment plan or look for repayment programs that can help.
Stash Money in Your Emergency Fund for a Rainy Day
It’s inevitable that you’ll have a large unexpected expense at some point in your life. You could lose your job, suffer a medical crisis, or get sacked with an expensive car repair. If you’re hit with an unforeseen event without enough cash on hand, you could push yourself even farther into a bad financial situation.
Create an emergency fund and guard against things like turkeys busting into your apartment. (Yes, that’s a true story and one of countless reasons you need an emergency fund for the truly unexpected!)
Start Investing for Retirement
As a millennial, you’re probably focused on starting and growing your career. Retirement feels like a long time away — and it is. That’s why starting to invest now is one of the best things you can do to secure your financial future.
By compounding your returns over a long period of time, your small investment will turn into a large sum. You’ll also be able to pursue a more aggressive investing strategy to generate a higher return. This means you can invest less money and still end up with more in retirement.
Start by investing in your 401(k) up to your employer match. That’s free money! Then, consider investing additional money into tax-advantaged accounts by opening a Roth IRA or by adding more to your 401(k).
Achieve Your Goals Faster with Good Money Systems
If you want to get on top of your finances, a budget is a great way to start. To begin tracking your expenses, sign up for a financial app like Mint.com. You can also set up your first budget with helpful software like You Need A Budget.
You’ll use your money more effectively just by being more aware of your spending. If you find any extra money in your budget, you can reallocate it to make progress towards paying off debt, saving, or investing.
To achieve your goals faster and simplify your money, set up automatic money transfers. Pay your rent, utilities, cable, internet, and credit cards automatically and never worry about missing a bill again.
Make saving simple with automatic transfers to your savings account, too. It’s less work for you and you might even save more money since you’ll be less tempted to spend the money if it’s not in your checking account.
Boost Your Income
Paying off debt, saving money, and investing all requires one thing: an income larger than expenses. Bringing in a little extra money every month is a great way to grow this gap.
This year, increase your salary by finally snagging that raise. Make sure you’re doing great work, and then go negotiate. If you don’t feel like you’re being paid what you’re worth at your current job, consider switching companies. It might be easier to get that raise at a different job.
If you’re satisfied with your income at your day job but you’d still like to earn extra money, consider starting a side hustle. Not only will you accelerate your financial progress, you’ll develop new skills, open yourself to new opportunities, and diversify your income.
Finally, make your plan for 2015 by getting empowered about your finances! Start by grabbing your copy of my new ebook, What You Should Have Learned About Money, But Never Did: A Gen Y Guide to Empowered Personal Finance. The official release date is January 30th! Learn more here.