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6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Finances

by Jackie Beck

Could you be in financial hot water without even knowing it? Give yourself this little financial wake-up call and see.

Imagine that you can never work again, starting right now, for whatever reason.

Just think about it for a minute or two, and then ask yourself this:
Would you and your family be in good shape financially if you could never work again?

If the answer is no, don’t beat yourself up or ignore the possibility of becoming permanently disabled or retiring. Those events happen to millions of people each year, and “It won’t happen to me” is not a plan.

Take advantage of the wake-up call

Here are 6 things you can do right now to improve your finances, in order from easiest-to-act-on to most-time consuming:

  1. If you don’t have an emergency fund, open one today and deposit something from every bit of income you get to it. I’m a fan of ING Direct. Then do not touch that money, unless you lose your job or become disabled.

  2. If you’re not yet contributing to a retirement fund, open one today and start. Start with just a percent or two if you have to, but start now. It will be better than nothing. You could contribute to a 401k, a Roth IRA, or a traditional IRA, etc — depending on what options are available to you. If you’re confused by all that, call up your employer’s benefits department or a company like Vanguard and ask them what you qualify for. Then open something. You can always change to something else later.

  3. Get disability and health insurance, if you can possibly qualify. Even if you’re perfectly healthy and it seems like a waste of money. In fact, especially if you’re perfectly healthy and it seems like a waste of money. That’s when you can get the cheapest rates, and at the very least, a high deductible policy won’t cost much compared to the amount of financial pain and stress not being insured can cause you. (According to the Social Security Disability Planner a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before they’re old enough to retire.)

  4. Make sure your money is doing what you want it to be doing. Yeah, this means looking at what you’re actually spending money on. It’s not that hard either. Just bite the bullet and do it if you aren’t already. What did you buy? How much did you spend on each general category? You need to actually add it up, not just scroll through your bank statement online and notice that you stop at ABC store a lot. Then figure out whether or not that’s what you really want to be doing with that money.

  5. Do something to increase the money you keep by $100 bucks a month. That could mean acting on some passive income ideas, starting a side business, cutting your cable bill, or whatever. A hundred bucks a month is doable in some fashion, and it can give you a nice kick start toward a better future.

  6. If you’re in debt, quit borrowing more money. Then use a debt snowball to get out. Being able to feed yourself and have a place to live in the event of a worst-case scenario is much so more important than whatever it is you’re thinking of buying.

Of course, there are many more things you can do to help ensure a solid financial future, but those are great places to start, and they’ll give you an outstanding foundation. Pick one, and start today. (You could do the first two in just 15 minutes each.) They will make a difference.

Posted in Money Management on 12.26.11 with 12 comments.

12 Responses to “6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Finances”

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