Thursday, December 30, 2010

Financial Tips for 2011

Paying Down Debt

1. Future. The future is an unknown.
2. Tax Rates. Tax rates may be higher in 2011 which means you may bring home less money. Tax credits may be reduced, child tax credit will be reduced to $500 in 2011, the deduction for mortgage insurance premiums will be eliminated, and energy saving improvements will be reduced to 10%.
3. Minimum. Paying more than the monthly minimum pays your balance down faster so you will owe less next year (interest, finance charges, etc.).
4. Shopping. Cut back on shopping to reduce changes of going into more debt or having large credit card balances after the holiday shopping season.
5. Variable. Many credit cards have been converted from fixed to variable rates which means if the federal rate increases, so will your monthly payments
6. Finances. Can improve relationship with your spouse or partner related to arguments over finances
7. Retirement. You can't focus on retirement if you are in debt

Tips to Plan for the Future

1. Change your thinking. Eliminate negative thoughts about money and bad money habits. Follow those who have good spending habits and consult a professional.
2. Emergency Fund. Create an emergency fund to cover bills for 9-12 months.
3. Plan for retirement. Contribute the maximum to get matching contributions. You will need 60-80% of your current retirement salary for a minimum of 20 years to have enough money to cover living expenses during retirement. Save 10-20% each month towards retirement.
4. Pre-retirement. One year before retirement start reducing your expenses to retirement levels to get adjusted to living on a reduced income.
5. SS Income. Don't count on social security unless you are near retirement age.
6. Financial Goals. Sets financial goals, i.e. plan for retirement, children's college education, pay off mortgage, pay off car note, etc.
7. Contributions. Increase retirement contributions with each salary increase

Planning For Retirement

1. Sign up. If you don't have a retirement account, run to your employer and sign up. Setup an account even if you are self-employed (SEP) or stay-at-home mom (spousal IRA).
2. Diversify. Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Ensure your retirement account is diversified. This helps to offset losses.
3. Live below your means. Reduce spending and create a budget.
4. Pay down debt. Pay off large debts and keep debt at no more than 10% of your monthly income after taxes (credit cards, medical expenses, other loans, etc.)
5. Estate planning. Perform estate planning (will, trust, health care directive, etc.). Hire a lawyer to prepare documentation.
6. Review. Review financial statements on a regular basis to check for errors and stay informed about your account.
7. Backup Plan. Create a backup plan if some financial crisis occurs and you need extra money. Have a plan A, B, C and D. Use what-if scenarios.

Saving Money

1. Budget. Create a spending plan or budget to see what areas you can reduce spending. Thirty-five percent of your budget after taxes should go towards housing (mortgage/rent, utilizes, repairs), fifteen percent towards debt (credit cards, student loans, personal loans), twenty-five percent towards transportation (maintenance and car payment), ten-percent towards savings, and fifteen-percent towards other expenses (groceries, prescriptions, medical expenses, etc.).
2. Bulk. Buy items in bulk by shopping at wholesale or discount stores such as Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s. Buy generic brands for food, canned goods, paper products, dry goods and prescriptions.
3. Comparison Shop. Look at prices of at least three different companies to see which has the best deal. Ask if the company will honor competitor prices. Look for coupons and specials at online websites such as or
4. Utilities. Buy the cheapest landline plan available. Turn to the lowest settings when you are not at home and use the recommended settings provided by the utility companies to save money on your monthly bills.
5. Bundle. Bundle services to save money on insurances such as car, mortgage and homeowners.
6. Downgrade. Downgrade all your services such as cable, internet, and cell phone. Downgrade your car or home to a cheaper model. You can sell your car and catch public transportation. If you need a car you can rent a car or use a Zip car.
7. Sell Items. Sell new or used items on eBay or Craigslist for extra cash.

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