I recently wrote a piece for Magnify Money on how a balance transfer affects your credit score. Did you know that a balance transfer can drop your credit score by about 40 points initially? Does this mean you shouldn’t take advantage of those 0% balance transfer offers?
New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. We make resolutions with the best intentions, but research suggests that only 8% of people actually achieve them. Still, there’s something about the promise of a fresh start and a clean slate that makes me set them every year.
My goals tend to revolve around health and finances but according to the financial planning company MassMutual, improving our finances can actually have a positive effect on our PHYSICAL well-being by reducing stress levels. In fact, seven out of 10 American workers say financial concerns are their most common cause of stress; nearly half say they find dealing with their financial situation stressful.
MassMutual suggests taking five steps towards improving your financial well-being which, in turn, will support your physical well-being in the new year.
Make a will
A MassMutual survey of Americans between ages 45 and 60 revealed that three out of five respondents do not have a will. If you are one of those people, make it a priority in the new year to create a will to ensure your loved ones are protected. If you already have a will, take some time in the new year to review beneficiary information and make updates if needed.
Improve your credit score
Just like your new year’s resolution to hit the gym more, boosting your credit score can be painful at first but is ultimately worth the effort. Late payments can have a significant impact on your credit score, so make sure you pay your bills on time each month and pay off balances as quickly as possible (especially on ones with high interest rates).
Save more than you spend
Saving more money than you spend is an essential way to improve your financial situation over time. A good rule-of-thumb is to save at least 10% of your net income each year.
Don’t leave your 401(k) behind
According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report, the growing use of automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans and shorter job tenures have led to an increasing number of inactive 401(k) accounts. If the new year brings you a new job (or retirement) be sure to rollover your 401(k) to your new employer-sponsored account or an individual retirement account if you are leaving the workforce. If you’re not yet contributing to a retirement plan, do so and ensure that you save at least enough to enjoy your employer’s match if there is one. Don’t leave any free money on the table.
Establish an emergency fund
Whether you experience a job loss, health emergency, or car or home repair, an emergency fund provides a cushion to help you cover unexpected costs without interfering with your financial goals. Include backstops like disability income insurance to protect your income stream should you become seriously ill or injured, and consider life insurance if you have loved ones who depend on your income.
Remember that you may encounter setbacks during the year, but don’t let a minor setback derail your goals. Set aside a little time each month to focus on your financial well-being and 2017 can be your best year yet.