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What’s in your financial future? A new car? Buying a home? A comfortable retirement?
Whatever your dreams for the future, it’s important to act now to make them come true. To help you get started, here are 12 tips you can use to build a bright financial future for you and your family.
1. set goals
Setting goals is an important first step to building a bright financial future. After all, you don’t start a journey without knowing where you want to go.
Take time to write down your dreams for the future. These will be the foundation of your financial goals. Having financial goals will help you stay on track as you turn your dreams into reality.
We like using the SMART method to set financial goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. You can learn more about them on our blog.
2. understand your spending
Understanding where your money goes will help you make better choices on how to spend and save for the future. Tracking your spending can help you set priorities and avoid waste, so you can reach your goals in the long run.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a handy tracking tool that can help you get a handle on your spending.
3. keep a budget
A budget can help you manage your spending, pay bills on time and save money. Use your budget as a guide before making a big purchase or planning for special occasions.
Making and sticking with a budget has lots of payoffs for your financial future. It can help you get out of debt, stay out of debt and reach your financial goals.
If you don’t have a budget, our blog article can help you get started.
4. organize your bills
Use a calendar and reminders to keep track of when bills are due. A calendar that shows when bills are due and dates you get paid makes it easier to keep your income and expenses in sync.2
Having difficulty paying a bill on the due date? Consider asking the creditor to change your statement due date to better fit when you get paid.
By making payments on time and building positive credit history, you’re taking another step toward a brighter financial future.
5. start an emergency fund
Unexpected expenses can cause delays in reaching your financial goals. An emergency fund can help reduce the impact these expenses have on your financial future.
Set up a separate account for your emergency fund. Use your budget to set aside money for the fund each month. If you can, have money from your paycheck deposited automatically to your emergency account.3
6. plan for retirement
Everyone looks forward to retiring, right? Start planning now to help ensure a comfortable retirement is part of your financial future.
If your employer offers a 401k program, take advantage of it. If not, explore other options for building your retirement savings. Our blog article explains 5 popular ways to save.
7. check your credit reports
Knowing what’s in your credit reports will help you build the financial future you want. They show your credit history, including loans, payments and inquiries. Check your credit reports to make sure your personal and financial information is correct.
Set a reminder to check your credit reports every year. You can get one free credit report per year from each major credit reporting company: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Find out how to get them at this link.
8. pay down your debt
Paying down debt will speed your progress toward your financial goals and can lead to a promising financial future. With less debt, you may be able to put more money into savings.
There are two popular methods for paying down debt.4 The high interest rate method focuses on – you guessed it – paying off debt with the highest interest rate. The snowball method aims at paying off your smallest debt first. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has an article that explains both.
9. practice good credit habits
When you use credit wisely, it can help improve your credit score over time. A good credit score makes it easier to reach goals and set yourself up for a successful financial future.
Good credit habits include making on-time payments and keeping your credit utilization rate (CUR) low. Your CUR shows how much of your total available credit you’re using.5 This blog article has more about good credit habits.
10. protect your identity
Identity theft can create a major detour on the road to your desired financial future. Identity thieves may use your personal info to make purchases or open accounts in your name and possibly harm your credit history and credit score.6
To prevent identity theft, use strong passwords and a password manager for sensitive accounts. Keep an eye on bank and credit-card statements, avoid using public Wi-Fi and use more secure, contact-free options to pay. 6
11. review your insurance policies
Life changes, and so do your insurance needs. Protect your financial future by making sure you have the coverage you need and that you’re getting the best price for it.
For auto insurance, make sure you’re getting all the discounts you may qualify for. If you have an old car that’s paid off, you might consider reducing or dropping collision/comprehensive coverage.
If you own a home, make sure your homeowner’s insurance covers any changes to the value of your home or its contents. If you live in an area subject to natural disasters (like hurricanes or flooding), you might want to explore purchasing extra coverage.
If you have life insurance, make sure your coverage meets your family’s needs and your beneficiaries are up to date.
12. shop smart
Every dollar you save is money that can help you reach your goals and build for your financial future.
Practice smart shopping skills and look for sales, check out consignment shops and social media sites for deals, and review your budget to see if there are expenses you can cut or reduce. Our blog article has lots more ideas on ways to save money.
Ready to get started? By taking it step by step, you’ll find your financial future is looking brighter every day.