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10 Financial Resolutions for the New Year

A Practical Guide to Putting Your Life on Track for Success

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The New Year is a great time to overhaul your financial life for the better, and one excellent place to start is by making good resolutions that can help get you closer to your money goals.  Here are a few you might considering to your own personal agenda.

Financial Resolution 1: Know What You Want

Have a clear, concise financial goal for the year. It isn’t good enough to say, “I want to have my credit card paid down and more money in the bank”. Instead, you should say something like, “I have the balance on my credit card paid down to $0, over $5,000 in my savings account, and a fully funded IRA.”

Financial Resolution 2: Prioritize Your Debts

Not all debt is equal. Make a list of your liabilities and organize them by the annual interest rate. Those with the highest rates (most likely your credit card debt) should be paid off immediately. It does no good to invest money while you are paying 19%+ each year. In a lot of cases, the wisest course of action is to sell any certificate of deposits, savings bonds or other cash holdings and use them to pay the balance. Why? If you owe $10,000 on your credit card and pay 19% interest annually ($1,900 per year), while at the same time, own a $10,000 certificate of deposit at a bank, paying you 4% interest ($400 a year), you would actually save yourself $1,500 a year by paying the debt!

Financial Resolution 3: Open an IRA

If you haven't done so already, open an individual retirement account (or IRA for short). Your financial planner or accountant should be able to tell you whether a Traditional or Roth IRA is better for you. Both offer important tax advantages that can add up to a significant amount money by retirement.

Financial Resolution 4: Enroll in an Automatic Savings Plan

Automatic savings plans are now offered for everything from brokerage accounts to government bonds. Simply call your broker and tell them you want a certain amount of money withdrawn from your checking or savings account each month, on a certain date, and deposited into your investment account. This way, you are forced to save because the cash is drawn directly from your bank before you can get your hands on it. Investors can often sign up for ASP's through a company's direct stock purchase plan. In these instances, the money is withdrawn and used to purchase additional shares of stock in the particular company. The United States government offers a similar service to those interested in investing in savings bonds.

Financial Resolution 5: Close Unnecessary Accounts

Banks and financial institutions charge fees for everything under the sun. Is it really necessary to have several credit or checking accounts? Although there are exceptions, in the vast majority of cases the answer is a firm no! To put things into perspective: imagine your bank charges you $8 each month for your checking account. In thirty years, that $8 will have added up to more than $8,500 after taxes!*

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