08 Jan Small Changes Can Equal Big Results
“They always say time changes things,
but you actually have to change them yourself.”
– Andy Warhol
It’s that time of year when people make New Year’s Resolutions and reporter after reporter writes list after list of potential resolutions. The problem of course is that the ideas offered up by reporters are often so difficult, time consuming, or expensive that nobody really follows through. A goal that is not pursued & achieved is just a waste of time, so how about some realistic financial goals that anyone can achieve this year. Let’s talk about small changes that are quick & easy to implement, preferably free, and maybe even something that could save us some real money.
I’ve listed 12 potential goals, 1 for each month of the year, but these goals are so simple, most people can do them all at once.
Double Check Beneficiary Designations
It’s free & it only takes a few minutes to double-check Beneficiary Designations on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, investment accounts, & bank accounts. It’s your hard-earned money & you just might rollover in your grave if it’s inherited by the wrong person.
Check Your Credit Report
It’s free & it only takes a few minutes to make sure your credit report is accurate. Make sure your creditors are reporting accurately & that there are no mysterious accounts open in your name. There have been a lot of major data breaches in the past few years and it’s your good name & financial reputation you’re protecting.
The most common password in the United States is Password, followed closely by dates of birth, anniversaries, & names. People make it far too easy for cybercriminals to hack accounts. Start by regularly changing your financial account passwords; bank, investment advisor, insurance company, & credit card issuer. And shame on you if your mobile devices aren’t password protected. It’s not just your life in that phone or tablet. It’s a direct link to your family & friend’s confidential information; things like their mother’s maiden name, their birthday, their address, and other critical pieces of information thieves need to steal their identities. Placing a simple 4-digit password on your mobile device only takes seconds, protects your private information, and protects your loved ones’ private information.
If you’ve never updated your Firewall or Anti-Virus software (or haven’t done so in the past 12 months), you’re just asking for problems. You may as well just take the front door off the hinges and invite criminals into your home. Good software isn’t free, but it isn’t expensive either. And what it does cost is far less than what it will cost to deal with a stolen identity.
Increase Retirement Contributions
If you aren’t participating in your employer’s retirement plan, start now by contributing however much it takes to get the most employer matching. For those of you that are participating, bumping up your retirement contribution by a small amount can have a huge positive financial impact on your retirement. Think 10%; if you are contributing 4.0%, increase it to 4.4%, if you are contributing 5.0%, increase it to 5.5%, and so forth. You probably won’t even miss the money, but you’ll definitely enjoy what it’s become when you retire.
Cut Unnecessary Spending
Morning lattes are a great place to begin and as I’ve written about before, small daily expenses have an enormous cost, often adding up to hundreds or thousands of dollars a year that could be put to better use elsewhere.
Consolidate Business Accounts
Save time, possibly lower expenses, and maybe even earn more, by consolidating your bank accounts at 1 bank, investment accounts at 1 investment advisor, & insurance policies with 1 agent.
Create A Budget (And Stick To It!)
There is no way to manage what you don’t know and if you can’t manage your money, you’re never going to have any. So Google Budget Worksheet. A gazillion results will be returned in the blink of an eye. Pick one. Any one. Now print or download and start using it. You may be surprised at what a positive affect it has on your personal finances this year.
Why are you still using paper? Most of the companies you do business with are probably capable of sending you electronic statements and capable of receiving electronic payments. Electronic commerce is faster, easier, and much more convenient for both you & those you do business with. It’s also less expensive, so much so that many business’ now have a surcharge for customers who insist on doing paper business. So save yourself the headache & some money by joining the 21st Century.
Improve Your Health
Healthcare is expensive and it’s only getting worse. There can be a lot of factors contributing to bad health, but many of them easily self-resolved. Sleep deprivation & the associated ill effects are resolved by simply getting a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Poor eating habits are another. Cutting fast food & sugary snacks can go a long way towards improving your health. A little exercise can work wonders, so take your dog for evening walks. Improving your health doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive and can save you a boatload of money on medical bills and prescriptions.
Replenish Emergency Savings
Life happens and it almost always requires that we spend some money to deal with it. The car needs new tires, the water heater went out, the roof is leaking, …. There is almost no end to the ways life can separate you from your money. It happens to all of us. We just need to refill our savings when it does. Ask your bank to systematically sweep money from your checking account to your saving account every payday. It’s a painless way to replenish your cash reserves so you can successfully manage future emergencies.
Pay-Off Credit Cards (Every Month!)
I shouldn’t have to say this, but stop carrying a balance on your credit card! First, put them in a safe, cut them up, do whatever it takes to stop using them. Then start making more than the minimum payment. Depending on the card issuer, only paying the monthly required minimum could take 10+ years to pay-off your credit card. Pay as much extra each month as you can afford. Try to pay double, but don’t stop there if you can afford to pay more than that. Paying interest to the credit card company makes the credit card company wealthy while it makes you go broke.
Change doesn’t have to be difficult. Nor does it have to be time consuming. And it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive. A few small changes in your habits can have an enormously positive impact on your financial life.
Sapiat Asset Management is an independent registered investment advisor, specializing in financial planning based, asset management for Gen X Individuals & Families and their Trusts & Businesses.