Financial Milestones Everyone Needs to Achieve

Everyone has a different life plan and different expenses. No matter what that looks like, make sure you’re checking off these financial milestones.

Start saving for retirement.

It’s very important to start saving early for your retirement. You benefit more from saving early, and the longer you wait, you’ll have a lot less.

Pay off student loans.

Education is getting more and more expensive and the student debt crisis is consistently in the news as a serious problem. Some students have resigned to never paying their debt off and just perpetually rolling them over. Pay them off as soon as you can.

Establish a good credit history.

While you may have missed some payments when you were younger and made some mistakes with your finances, it is important to redeem them. Developing a solid credit history will help with big purchases and shows how responsible you can be with paying your bills.

Invest in more than a retirement plan.

Whether it’s something simple like mutual funds or something more advanced like stocks, it is important to have your money diversified in something beyond a basic savings account.

Maximize employer benefits.

If you work somewhere that provides you with perks, you should be using them to the fullest. Employer match accounts are effectively the closest thing to free money that exists, so the sooner you maximize your benefits, the better.

Have a positive net worth.

This is the moment that everything you earn becomes pure profit. There is nothing more exciting than when assets – liabilities = a positive number.

Buy your first home.

Buying a home is easily one of the largest financial obligations most people will experience, and it may determine your spending habits for the future.

Deciding when to retire.

There are quite a few things to consider when it comes to retirement, and they differ for everyone. Deciding when to collect social security, how much you need in savings, and how you plan to spend are just a few of the things you may need to think about.

If you need advice or help with putting any of these financial milestones in place for your lifestyle – contact First Financial! We can help you purchase a home, create and manage a budget, assist you with improving your credit score, consolidate your debt, and our Investment and Retirement Center can help you retire and invest with peace of mind.* Contact us today to get started.

*$5 in a base savings account is your membership deposit and is required to remain in your base savings account at all times to be a member in good standing. All credit unions require a membership deposit. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth and Ocean County.

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

 

6 Tips for Making Fiscal Fitness Goals Stick

A sporting equipment - two red dumbbells. Isolated over white.

If you often struggle with setting financial goals and making them stick throughout the year, try these six tips.

1. Use the SMART principle.

The acronym SMART is a good way to remember an effective strategy for setting your fiscal finance goals. Make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific. In other words, instead of deluding yourself that you’ll completely overhaul years of poor money management, start to tackle it in bite-size portions. Keeping goals specific also makes them seem more real and tangible than the undefined “improving my financial fitness.”

2. Incorporate the new practice into your routine.

Science shows we are creatures of habit. Once something is part of our routine, even if it’s an unpleasant task, we don’t seem to mind it as much. Getting to that point requires making a deliberate effort to incorporate new financial habits into your routine. To make this step easier, set up reminders on your smartphone calendar for specific times and dates you’ll set aside to address various aspects of your finances, whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly.

3. Keep doing it – repetition leads to habit.

The more frequently you perform a new financial task as part of your routine, the sooner it becomes a habit – something that doesn’t require any willpower. That’s the trick.

4. Don’t judge yourself for failures – expect them.

Half the battle of following through with new goals of any kind is how you handle failure. If we were to ask the people who succeed at sticking to their goals what their secret was, you can almost guarantee it involves expecting and accounting for failure. Instead of hoping you won’t fail, plan to fail. That may seem pessimistic, but it’s more realistic than thinking you’ll be perfect! After all, we’re just human. It’s what you do after you fall that makes the difference between permanent failure at financial goals and long-term success.

5. Give yourself some wiggle room to account for slacking off.

You should create some wiggle room into your fiscal fitness improvement plans. Round up or down, schedule a “slack” day or two, and don’t make plans that are too rigid or that depend too heavily on your own consistency. This will take some of the pressure off and allow you to move forward even if you are taking a step back every once in a while.

6. Hold yourself accountable.

Even as you expect to fail and leave yourself some room to slack off, don’t go to the opposite extreme of approaching your fiscal fitness goals without purposefulness. One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable is to make your intentions public and ask others to support you. There’s power in numbers. Just as it’s easier to commit to a 5 a.m. workout if you have someone by your side, it’s easier to change the numbers that determine your financial fitness when you use the buddy system.

Instead of refusing to make financial goals because you’ll inevitably fail, use the expectation of failure, along with these tips, to move beyond that cycle this year. Gradually and deliberately improve your financial well-being and turn that ship around toward financial success.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing.com

4 Money Habits You Should Adopt Today

Piggy bank with yellow sticky notes on wooden background

Make wise credit purchases

A credit card can be a valuable tool, but if used incorrectly, it can create debt that becomes tough to tackle. Only use your credit card for purchases you can pay off each month. Using your card this way is a great way to build a good credit score, just make sure you’re being careful when paying with plastic.

Be on the lookout…

…for savings. It doesn’t matter how big or small the purchase, you can probably find it cheaper somewhere else. Have you checked the competitor’s prices? Looked online? Check out Amazon. They can probably save you a few dollars and have it at your door within 48 hours if you’re taking advantage of Amazon Prime.

Auto schedule your bills

Have you mapped out your monthly bills and their due dates? If you haven’t, now would be a good time to start. Look at the due dates, compare them to your pay schedule and design an auto pay schedule that will keep you from missing any payments. Paying your bills on time is a must to keep that credit score up.

Be frugal

No matter how much money you make, you should try to live below your means. This will give you a chance to save more for the future – where your future self will thank you.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

3 Strategies for Helping You Change Your Financial Habits

goals-and-accomplishmentsAre you hoping to change your financial habits? There isn’t any one-size-fits-all magic approach, but there are different strategies you can try out until you hit on something that works well for you.

Here are three strategies that can help you change your financial habits. Figure out which is likely to work best for you:

1. Try a Spending Detox

If spending is one of your big problems, you can actually break the habit by going on a spending detox. Try to go a month without spending on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. You can retrain yourself to dislike spending and prefer keeping your money.

This approach can even work with your long-term and short-term savings goals. Make sure you automatically contribute to retirement savings or to your travel fund during this time, but avoid spending money on unnecessary household goods, gadgets, or other items that do little more than clutter things up.

You might be surprised at how quickly you adjust to the new normal and develop new habits that are less about spending money.

2. Make Small Changes

Taking a drastic step doesn’t work as well for some people. If this describes you, then consider making incremental changes instead of doing something dramatic. This reduces the pain involved, and can help you make forward progress.

It’s a slower approach, but it can help you ease into your new habits. Savings habits are ideal for making small changes. If you want to get to the point where you are setting aside $350 a month toward retirement, you aren’t likely to be able to sustain that change all at once.

Instead, you can start with a smaller amount. Can you set aside $10 a week? This adds up to $40 a month. Look to take that first small step. Once you free up that money and become comfortable, start looking for ways to free up another $10 a week. It takes a little time, but you will eventually reach your goal.

From freeing up money to pay down debt to putting money toward a family vacation, the start-small approach can work well and help you change the way you manage your money.

3. Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to prepare your finances and change your habits is to plan ahead. Get in the habit of checking in with your finances once a week. Set aside time to look ahead to the bills you will need to pay and other financial realities.

When you plan ahead, you will track your spending better, create budgets, and naturally start to change some of your financial habits in a way that can benefit you in the long term. You’ll also end up saving yourself a ton of time and headache in the long run because you won’t need to deal with putting out all the fires either.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for MoneyNing.com

4 Reasons You Should Live Like You’re Broke

Businessman holding empty pockets

So you can pay off debt faster.

Debt isn’t cheap. Anyone who’s ever had to throw an unexpected bill on a credit card knows this to be true. On the occasion this happens, it can sometimes feel like it takes all year to pay it off. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, this can definitely be the case. If you’re spending less, this will give you a chance to pay down that debt a little faster than you’d normally be able to.

So you can save up for awesome experiences.

We all enjoy buying “stuff.” Most the time that stuff isn’t around years later. Sometimes, we’ll remember that stuff we spent our money on years ago, and it seems ridiculous that we thought so highly of it. The things we typically remember most are people and places, and the experiences that come with it. Next time you want to splurge on an object, put that cash into savings and figure out the best way you can spend it on a memory that can last a lifetime.

So your children won’t treasure material possessions.

If you never start your child on a path of not needing to have the same things as the kid down the street, not only will they not feel like their self-worth is based on objects, but they might grow up appreciating the little things in life. They also may be a little more frugal when they’re spending their own money one day.

So you can simplify life.

Things are nice, but life can be amazing even when it’s simple. Teach your children the value of saving money for the future. Show them there’s more to living than a daily trip to Starbucks or the mall. Eat at home more. Avoid using that credit card. Old-fashioned living can be quite satisfying.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

5 Ways to Be on Top of Your Budget

calculator and piggy-bank with glasses on white background

Be realistic. Keep going over budget on certain things? Maybe you didn’t allot enough money in those areas. If this is the case, try and find a happy medium that is more realistic so you can still cut back a little bit.

Be automatic. Are you having trouble saving? Do you have direct deposit at work? If so, figure out how much you want to put aside every month, and have that money automatically put into your savings account. This way, you can set it and forget it.

Be thorough. When you’re setting up your budget you may tell yourself, “I’m going to go out to eat twice a week.” Well That sounds great in theory, but what happens when you want to celebrate your friend’s new promotion? Where’s that money coming from? Make sure your budget includes some flexible money that you can use in different areas when needed.

Be patient. Don’t spend your entire monthly budget of any one area at the beginning of the month. Sure, that awesome new movie is coming out at the first of the month, but slow down. There’s probably some other things you’re going to want to do before the end of the month, so keep that in mind and spread your money out.

Be nice. You’re an awesome person who should be rewarded for staying on budget each month. Give yourself a little cash to splurge each month, even if it’s no more than an ice cream cone. Ice cream is awesome and so are you!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com