Achieving financial security has never been simple, and during an economic downturn, it’s especially hard. The following guidelines can help keep your future security from taking a nosedive in good economic times – and bad.
How do you spend your money? Paying very close attention to your cash flow, including those “small treats” you give yourself throughout the week, can have a big impact. Those $3 cups of coffee you buy on the way to work five days a week can add up. Caving to that craving will cost you $780 a year!
Make a budget
Writing down all of your sources of income and all the ways you spend money can make a difference. Knowing exactly how much extra money you actually have to spend each month after paying for necessities can be an eye-opening experience.
Pay down debt
The benefits of wiping debt off your personal balance sheet can be huge. A good strategy to get a handle on your credit cards is to focus on the highest-rate card first. In general, it’s best to put extra amounts toward the card with the highest rate until it’s paid off, and then move on to the card that has the next highest rate.
You should also avoid new charges and, of course, continue to pay the minimum amounts on your other cards.
Establish an emergency fund
An unexpected expense can wreak havoc on your finances if you’re not prepared. Keep at least three months’ salary in an account that allows you to access the money quickly and without penalty.
Protect your assets
In good economic times and bad, adequate protection always makes sense. Life Insurance can provide income for your family if you die. Home and auto insurance can help protect you if your home or car is damaged or destroyed and provide liability coverage if someone is injured. Disability insurance can protect your income if you’re unable to work.
Leave your retirement account alone
If you participate in a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, you might be tempted to put your contributions on hold – just through a rough time. Be aware, though, that pausing your contributions can be very expensive in the long term, and it could mean having to work longer than you planned.
Follow an investment strategy
Investing is important for your future financial security. Don’t let a declining market tempt you to sell impulsively. You could miss out on substantial gains if you’re not invested in the market when it starts to rebound.
Instead, make sure your investment strategy is still appropriate for you – one based on your tolerance for market risk and the amount of time before you need the money. Appropriate asset allocation is considered to be the single most important aspect of investing. If it’s still right for you, stick with it!
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The information contained here is general and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Laws of a particular state and your particular situation may significantly affect the general information presented herein. The availability of the tax or other benefits mentioned above may be conditioned on meeting certain requirements. You should consult your attorney or tax advisor regarding your specific legal or tax situation.
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