April 15 and Beyond: Take Control of Your Financial Future

Tax season is a good time to think about whether we have our personal finances under control -- and what we can do about it.

Apr 19, 2014 at 3:00PM

During tax season, many of us spend a great deal of time focusing on our finances -- and we're not always happy with what we see. According to the FINRA Investor Education Foundation's National Financial Capability Study, only 24% of U.S. adults surveyed reported being very satisfied with their current financial condition.

No matter the season, now is the time to take stock of your finances. Here are some tips you can use.

1. Take advantage of tax breaks when you save. Saving through tax-advantaged accounts is smart. In addition to potential tax benefits, there is an opportunity for your savings to compound over time. Consider using a tax-advantaged savings account for college saving, such as a 529 Plan or Coverdell Education Savings Account. And contribute to a retirement plan that offers tax benefits, like a 401(k) or IRA. When it comes to retirement savings, try to save the maximum amount in 2014.

2. Get a grip on saving versus spending. Almost 20% of Americans surveyed reported spending more than they make. Tackle monthly spending by taking time to calculate monthly cash flows. This can help you avoid another expense: overdrawing your checking account. Overdraft fees can add up. To protect yourself, keep close tabs on your bank balances and opt out of programs that automatically approve ATM and debit card transactions.

3. Dial back your debt. Sound borrowing practices and management of financial products are crucial to financial capability. Many of us carry a balance on a credit card and pay interest each month -- and more than one in three credit card holders reported paying only the minimum due. The good news is that almost half of surveyed credit card holders always paid their credit cards in full. If you can't, at least pay more than the minimum due. Every dollar you pay above the minimum payment can dramatically reduce the amount of interest you will pay.

4. Plan for known -- and unknown -- expenses. Being able to weather unexpected financial shocks greatly contributes to your own financial stability. One of the best things you can do to control your financial future is start an emergency fund. Only 40% of American adults surveyed have set aside sufficient emergency savings to cover expenses for three months in the case of sickness, job loss, economic downturn, or other emergencies. To get started, aim to set aside at least one month (and preferably three to six months) of your current salary in a federally insured savings account -- and don't touch it unless absolutely necessary.

5. Resolve to keep learning. Financial literacy strongly correlates with behavior that is indicative of financial capability, including planning for retirement, having emergency savings, and minimizing credit card fees. Research every financial product before taking the plunge -- from credit card offers to investments and loans. And comparison shop, as you would with any important purchase.

For more information about saving and investing, visit the investors section of FINRA.org.

FINRA is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. Our chief role is to protect investors by maintaining the fairness of the U.S. capital markets. FINRA does not endorse, sponsor, or guarantee, nor is it sponsored by, any advertisers on this site, and any dealings with those advertisers are solely between you and the advertisers.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers