Recs

1

Now What?

Are your finances looking spiffy? Can you brag about your stellar credit history, paid-in-cash lifestyle, adequately insured body and belongings and the fact that you know your IRA account number by heart? (I mean, if someone asks, you don't want to be rude by not replying, right?)

High five. Compared to the average American, you've clearly got it goin' on. Financially, that is.

OK, enough basking. We at The Motley Fool have even higher hopes for you and your earning power. So let's turn up the dimmer switch and really make your finances shine.

Open your wallet wide and say "ahh"
Complacency can be detrimental to your cash flow. So don't get lazy -- perform a regular money tune-up to ensure that nothing handicaps your well-choreographed financial plan.

A quarterly financial checkup will make sure your biggest financial assets are really working as hard as they should be. While it's tempting to put off your homework -- trust me, it was easy to come up with a list of 10 things I hate about managing finances -- dismissing a few small details can rob you of some not-so-small sums.

While you're rifling through the metaphorical financial couch cushions, keep a lookout for those occasional situations (e.g. rolling an old 401(k) into a self-directed IRA or moving investments into a safer account to pay for college or retirement) where you really don't want to raise Uncle Sam's ire.

Save $1,200-plus on pending big-ticket items
Time can be as precious as money, so maximize both by concentrating your efforts on the biggest money moves.

For example, if you're planning home improvements, you can save 10% to 50% on the work (that's $557 to $2,785 for the average homeowner doing spruce-up work) by shopping smart for labor and supplies. (And no, that doesn't mean you have to put on your do-it-yourself hat and head over to Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) or Lowe's (NYSE: LOW  ) .)

If refinancing is on your "to-do" list, do it for $700 less than what the average homeowner pays in closing costs ($2,748, according to a Bankrate survey) by negotiating a few key lender processing fees. For specific pointers on these items, see the March and December issues of Motley Fool Green Light. A free 30-day pass gets you access to the entire year's archives.

As for the money you free up to invest, make it work doubly hard for your future. You don't have to quit your day job and become a stock market genius to improve your investment returns. A few strategic moves here will pay huge dividends and still leave plenty of free time to brush up on your golf game.

Steal liberally from my colleagues' investment homework below for ideas fit for those who are new to the stock market, like to rifle through the bargain bin, have a full schedule or want to see what it takes to mint a million. In no time you'll have even more to boast about -- you know, if someone is interested and asks and all.

Dayana Yochim doesn't like to toot her own horn, but the Fool's disclosure policy requires her to put it out there in her personal profile. She doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Home Depot is an Inside Value recommendation. Dayana -- along with co-advisor Shannon Zimmerman -- dishes everyday advice on saving, smart spending, investing and accessorizing for The Motley Fool Green Light service. Grab a 30-day guest pass and crib from their notes.




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4/17/2014 4:00 PM
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