An all-too-common financial problem for many Americans is credit card debt. Similarly concerning is that most people don't have a solid savings plan in place to deal with inevitable emergencies that arise. But there are simple strategies to fix these problems, including getting out of debt with balance-transfer credit cards or finding the best savings account.
Motley Fool analysts Michael Douglass and Nathan Hamilton talk in the following video about three simple ways you can fix your finances, which may be most relevant to you if you're carrying high-rate debt or are falling short of your savings goals.
Michael Douglass: Let's talk about three simple ways to fix your finances today. Of course, the first one is probably something you've heard before -- get out of debt. But there's a little bit of a twist on here, right? A balance-transfer credit card can really help with that. We don't believe in just giving you sort of, like, "Oh, you need to get out of debt." Here's a way to do it.
Nathan Hamilton: Yeah.
Douglass: If you've got a balance transfer, if you have a balance that you're carrying on a credit card, put it on a balance-transfer card, that means you've got a 0% intro APR, usually for 15 or so months. Then that means you can essentially take that same amount of money, put it all toward principal instead of principal plus APR, plus interest, and then that means that you're able to pay off your debt faster. That can make a really big difference to your finances very quickly.
Hamilton: Yeah. It's something, fixing your finances today means laying the groundwork to be more successful in the future...
Hamilton: ...with your finances, to be in a better position. So if you are able to cut that interest rate for 15 to 21 months, whatever offer you're looking at, it has a huge benefit to you, not only for your finances, but I personally have had credit card debt when I was younger, and it's stressful. You have to deal with that, and that has an impact on your life beyond just finances, whether it's relationships, just stress overall, at work. It does influence it, and that's a good way to fix your finances today. And Balance-transfer credit cards are popular. I think they should be 10 times more popular than they are now.
Douglass: Absolutely. Let's talk about the 5% ratchet strategy.
Hamilton: Yeah. It's essentially something I've used in my personal finances. And what you're trying to do is, many people recommend just to start with 5% of your income and automatically throw it into a savings account, emergency fund, whatever, but I actually say go a step further and kind of ratchet that number up over time until your finances break. So if you're able to, the first few months, do 5% and then maybe go to 10%, another few months you're able to go to 15%, but then you're not able to really meet your budget in terms of what you want to spend on entertainment, cover your regular bills, and you're finding that stressful, OK, that's your breaking point. And keep that money automatically flowing into a savings account or some sort of emergency account and kind of ratchet until it breaks.
Douglass: Yeah. It's called paying yourself first.
Douglass: It's a very smart way to do things. If you sort of put this money aside so you don't see it, you don't spend it, and that's really the beauty of that kind of stuff is that psychologically it's just more difficult for us to spend money if we don't see it right in front of us.
Hamilton: Exactly. It's powerful. It works.
Douglass: Yeah. Let's also talk about earning a little bit more with that money that you've put in a savings account. Right? Certainly you don't want to put it under your mattress.
Hamilton: Yeah. Some people may find benefits in it for a rainy day, but ultimately you're losing to inflation if your money's sitting in most savings and checking accounts out there.
Hamilton: Major national issuers are all below 0.3%, many times are just 0.01%, so you're really not doing anything with it. But if you can find a savings account that has a high yield -- generally you're going to be looking at 1% and higher on that balance -- there are sign-up bonuses for transferring in certain deposit amounts. That's a way to make your money work better for you and something you should be taking advantage of. If it's just matching inflation, you're still keeping your purchasing power over time.
Hamilton: It's important. It sounds small -- 1% sounds like not that much -- but it is meaningful if you can get a sign-up bonus to tack onto it. There really aren't any reasons that I see you shouldn't.
Douglass: Absolutely. No, that makes a lot of sense. And we've got a lot of other information about how to think about credit cards and your finances, debt, spending, at fool.com/creditcards. We also there happen to have our picks for the best credit cards of 2017, so that's a lot of good information that you can use to, once you've done some of this other legwork, to then go ahead and start taking your finances to the next level.
And included in that we also have several balance-transfer cards, which can be really helpful when you're, again, thinking about that getting-out-of-debt piece in the very beginning. So we've got a lot more information there. Again, that's fool.com/creditcards, check us out there. Nathan, thanks for your time today.
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