The New Year’s Here: Make Better Resolutions in 2018

From starting a workout plan to saving for retirement, roughly 80% of New Year’s resolution fail within the first month. Of the people who keep their commitments through February and beyond, only 8% ultimately reach their goal. Why is that? If you ask 100 people, you’re likely to get 100 different excuses reasons. Making a resolution is easy. Sticking to it? That’s a different story.

But instead of focusing on the failure, let’s look at some ways to increase your chances of success in 2018. Compiling an exhaustive list of what it takes to accomplish your goals would be…well, exhausting. So, to keep you from getting overwhelmed, we’ve narrowed it down to 5 simple suggestions that should help you start the new year strong.

Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick

Be real.

If you want to get in better shape but haven’t exercised in years, walking for 20 minutes a day makes far more sense than running a marathon in March. If you want to have 3-6 months of living expenses in an emergency fund but haven’t saved a penny over the last year, start with setting aside $20 per paycheck. Realistic goals pave the way for quick wins and consistent progress.

Be specific.

When it comes to setting goals, it’s tempting to speak in generalizations. “I want to feel better.” “I want to be smarter with my money.” The danger of statements like these is that they can’t be measured. Being smart with money is tough to quantify. Paying an extra $50 toward credit card debt is much easier to track. Instead of playing it safe with general statements, dig into the details.

Be consistent.

If you’ve ever run a 5K or 10K, you’ve seen THAT person—you know the one. They’re toeing the starting line, psyching themselves up, trembling with anticipation. As soon as the starting gun fires, they launch from the gate at top speed. You probably passed them after a mile or two, right? As you make your resolutions for the new year, don’t be THAT person. Understand that lasting success isn’t a sprint. Identify your goal, break it down into smaller action steps, and take clear, consistent action toward accomplishing those steps every single day.

Be accountable.

If nobody else knows about them, our best intentions can be our worst enemy. It’s easy to say you want to save $100 each month. It’s also easy to rationalize why you missed a month or two. To keep from fooling yourself, ask a trusted friend, family member, or co-worker to check in and keep you accountable. If there’s one thing worse than missing a goal, it’s having to admit it to someone else.

Be cool.

While January 1st seems like a logical time to make a fresh start, let’s not forget that technically it’s just another day. In reality, every day offers the chance to correct mistakes and build on successes. When making your resolutions, allow for some flexibility. Overly restrictive deadlines and constraints can lead to crippling discouragement. The end goal is improvement, not perfection. So yes, set your goals. But don’t forget to leave yourself some room to enjoy the process of achieving them.

Happy 2018!

Unexpected Life Events That Could Ruin Your Finances

Although it’s impossible to predict what will happen in life, there are certain actions you can take to better prepare yourself for what may come your way. Instead of worrying about things you often can’t control, consider these potential life events and what you can do now to avoid ruining your finances in the future.

Becoming a caregiver.

It’s difficult to think about our parents growing older and the possibility of becoming a caregiver to a loved one. If you’re not careful and prepared, taking on this responsibility can significantly impact your finances. The best thing you can do to prepare your family is to fully understand your loved one’s financial situation. Have they invested in long-term care? Are their finances in order and have they sought the advice of a financial planner? Try not to let any new expenses you may incur while helping out cause you unnecessary financial stress.

Getting a divorce.

No one expects to get divorced when they’re reciting their marriage vows in front of family and friends. The fact is, sometimes things don’t work out and you and your spouse may be better apart than together. The smart thing to do if you’re faced with this situation is to get informed now. Don’t let your soon-to-be ex control your finances. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need so you’re financially independent and stable. Experts also suggest that immediately after going through the divorce, wait before you make another serious decision. Let the dust settle, make sure your assets are in order and take things slowly. Rash decisions can cost you, so take your time during the transition.

Weathering a natural disaster.

We all know that Mother Nature has a mind of her own. But, there are a few things you can do to prepare your financial state in case of a weather disaster. First, start an emergency fund now. Saving a small amount initially is a wise plan, but ideally you’ll want to have around four to five months’ worth of living expenses on hand. Secondly, keep your financial documents organized and secure so if disaster strikes, you can easily access the information needed. Third, get up to speed on your insurance policies. Most homeowners insurance plans do not include flood damage – so in the off chance you live in an area prone to high flood waters, get coverage now as flood insurance usually cannot be purchased after the disaster strikes.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

Smart Money Moves to Make Before Year’s End

Build a monthly budget.

Now is the time to set a game plan for how you’ll regulate your spending in the coming year. At the beginning of each month, come up with a budget that works for your lifestyle. Taking a hard look at things as the month is beginning will set you up to make good money decisions. Because each month is different, don’t expect your budget to be the same for each one. For instance, if you know you’ll be attending a wedding in the month of April, plan in advance to cut back on “extras.”

Learn how to create a budget with our simple budgeting guide!

Make weekly card payments.

Instead of waiting for your bill to come each month, decide now to make payments each week instead. It can be so easy to charge without thinking about the mountain of debt you’re acquiring, so hold yourself accountable on a more regular basis. This will help you to more quickly pull yourself out of that debt, especially after the expensive holiday season.

Use cash, not card.

As mentioned above, because we so quickly swipe our cards without keeping track of our purchases, it can be incredibly easy for our spending to get out of hand. As you look toward 2018 and the money habits you’ll develop, decide now to withdraw cash and only use that amount for a specified period of time. Studies have shown that an average person spends about 15% less when they use cash only. So, put your cards away, pay down those bills, and give yourself a cash limit to help keep your spending at bay.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

4 Money Skills You Should’ve Had Yesterday

Everyone’s life is different and we all learn life skills in a different order, at a different age, and at a different place. No matter where you’re at, here are 4 money skills you should have.

Negotiating purchases: When you were shopping for your first new car you probably didn’t have a clue about how much you should spend or how much the car was really worth. It’s time to do your homework. Negotiation is a battle and you need to show up to the dealership prepared with knowledge as your ammo. Don’t just accept the price of the first car you like. Make a counter-offer that’s reasonable and don’t be afraid to say no and walk away. Stick to your gameplan and you’ll end up with a good deal.

Here’s how to buy a car in 5 easy steps!

Budgeting your paycheck: Your first job put more money in your pocket than you’d ever made in your life and you probably spent like crazy. Now that you’re older, you need to be seriously thinking about your spending habits and saving for retirement. If you haven’t used a budget before, find one and stick to it. If you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, it’s time to stop.

Check out our budgeting guide for some helpful hints on creating a budget.

Maximizing your credit score: When you’re young, you don’t care about your credit score. But it’s never too early to start paying attention to it. Anything you purchase that requires making payments will be affected by your credit score. The higher your score, the better your interest rate, which will save you a lot of money over the life of the loan.

Using your credit cards: Credit cards are a valuable tool when used correctly. When used irresponsibly, they can turn on you in a heartbeat. When you get that first credit card, use it periodically to build credit. DON’T overspend. If you want to use your credit card more often, make sure you pay it off every month. EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Don’t miss payments and don’t leave a balance. If you stick to those rules, you’ll be in good shape.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

4 Items You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet

When it comes to your wallet – there are some things you should surely throw away, and there are others you should take out and file away immediately to prevent identity theft.

Social Security Card

It may seem obvious to not carry this with you, but many people have long kept their SS card in their wallet. But think about it, if you have your number memorized, which most of us do, when do you actually need your card? Have you ever had to present your card to someone? Carrying this information around with you is a bad idea. If the wrong person gets ahold of your social security number, you could end up with loans opened up in your name and new credit card accounts.

Passwords

It seems every website we visit now requires a password. How are we ever supposed to keep up with them all? It’s a great idea to have a cheat sheet where all your passwords are kept, but do not be tempted to keep this information in your wallet. Instead, keep your notes at your desk, locked in your phone, or filed away somewhere at home with other sensitive information.

Credit Cards

Many of us are way past the point of having a credit card just for “emergencies.”  It’s hard to check out at any retail store without being asked if we’d like to “save 10% by opening up a store credit card.” No matter how many cards you have, it’s wise not to carry all of them in your wallet at once. Think about it: if your wallet is stolen or lost, would you want someone to have access to every account you have? Instead, keep one card with you for those emergencies and leave the others at home in a safe place – unless you are specifically going to that particular store. This can also keep you from making spur of the moment purchases you’ll likely regret.

Receipts

Once you get home from a store after making a purchase, decide right then if you need to hold on to the receipt. Is there a chance you’re going to return the item? If not, then toss the receipt right away. If it is a larger purchase or some type of home technology, you may want to keep the receipt until after the purchase shows on your next credit card statement, to ensure you were charged the correct amount and that the item functions properly.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

4 Tips for Planning for Financial Emergencies

We don’t always know when the unexpected will happen. That doesn’t mean we can’t plan for it though. In fact, one of the best things you can do for your finances is to look ahead and prepare for the inevitable emergency.

Here are four tips you can use for your plan:

1. Start with Your Rainy Day Fund

It’s old news, but the reality is that many Americans still don’t have the resources to handle a $500 emergency. That means you probably need to beef up your rainy day fund. Get started even if you feel like you can’t set aside a ton. Every little bit helps. Set aside money each week that can be used for a rainy day.

This also includes paying attention to what’s happening with your expenses. While things do happen unexpectedly, the truth is that we often get clues that something is about to break down. The washing machine behaves erratically, or you notice something about the fridge. Once those signs appear, start setting money aside.

2. Plan for Routine Costs

You know that the oil needs to be changed in your car every so often. There are plenty of other maintenance milestones that come with owning a car too. You need to plan for these items. From home maintenance to the fact that your kids need to get clothes for school every year, there are routine costs in your life.

Make a plan to save a little bit each month for these routine costs. You can use a system that helps you prepare to meet these challenges when they arrive, preferably a system where savings are automated. That way, you won’t have to rely as heavily on your emergency fund or (worse), your credit cards.

3. Perform an Insurance Audit

When was the last time you checked your insurance coverage? Do you have the right amount? Will it cover your situation? Double check your coverage.

Make sure your home is covered. What if you’ve recently bought some expensive items? Are they covered against loss? Look at your health insurance coverage. Will it be enough if you end up in the hospital? Is the deductible affordable? On the other hand, are you paying for too much coverage and not freeing enough money to save?

The right insurance coverage can go a long way toward helping you out when you’re in a pinch. And don’t forget the life insurance to cover your family, just in case.

4. Know What You Can Cut

Finally, make sure you know what you can cut from your budget in an emergency. Which items are the first to go? Which items, when cut, could result in immediate savings? This exercise can help you spring into action once a financial emergency strikes.

Plus, looking at your spending with a critical eye can help you now. If you take the time to review your spending and identify areas of waste, you can plug those leaks now. Divert the money toward other goals, like building a rainy day fund or preparing to buy a new appliance.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for Moneyning.com