Remember last January, when you made all those New Year's resolutions to improve your finances? Perhaps you meant to whittle down that credit card balance. Or maybe you intended to finally open a Roth IRA and supercharge your retirement savings. You might have even created a budget, determined to gain control over your cash flow.
But then came the Super Bowl ("No time for budgets when there's beer to be bought!"), and then Valentine's Day ("I'll get to these account forms right after I figure out what to buy my spouse/partner/pet"), and then came May (widely celebrated as Fungal Infection Awareness Month -- really). Little wonder you haven't been able to follow through on all those good intentions.
Don't despair. We're only halfway through the year, which means you have six months to improve your fiscal fitness before 2004 (but just 168 shopping days left until Christmas). So dust off that list of resolutions you wrote on that New Year's Eve party napkin, and we'll dig out our 2003 New Year's Financial Resolutions extravaganza, bursting with tips and tools to help you replace financial flab with monetary muscle. Here are some of the ways we can help:
Here's a guaranteed way to improve your finances: Stop lining other people's pockets with your interest payments. Once you've done that, you can begin sending those payments to a better place -- your own investment account, for example.
But paying down debt is just one aspect of credit management. As we discuss in our Cash In On Credit special, it also pays to keep tabs on your credit score and use credit (i.e., other people's money) to your benefit. Our Reduce Debt toolkit shows you how to negotiate for a better rate or increase your credit score.
Everybody wants a bigger bank account. The way to build one is simple: Get money out of your hands before you can spend it. Move cash regularly to an account that is not linked to a checkbook or debit card. Then watch it grow.
In our Save More Money, we've got some suggestions for where to put that money. We even provide a "Savings Scale" that you can print out and hang on the fridge to help you monitor your swelling net worth. Next, you'll want to check out our savings center.
Saving and spending: They are the Luke and Darth Vader of Stash Wars, battling it out for control of your financial empire. OK, perhaps that's a little overdramatic, but if you want to be a super-saver, you need to be a smart spender.
Start by figuring out where your money goes, by reviewing your bank statements, credit card summaries, and receipts piled on your bedroom dresser. In our Spend Less toolkit, we provide a "Spend Smarter Patch" that can be printed out and wrapped around your credit or debit card. Use it to record your purchases, and perhaps to discourage unnecessary outflow.
Make more money, invest smarter
Investing hasn't been much fun over the past few years (the S&P 500 is down 28% so far this millennium). But investing over the past few months has been a hoot (the S&P is up 21% since the beginning of March)! So how will the market perform over the next few months, and the rest of the millennium?
You know we can't answer that (though we're generally bullish on the American economy for at least the next few centuries). But we do know this: Your chances for success are increased when you use the right tools. Whether you're looking for the best mutual funds, stock ideas, or expert second opinions, visit the Make More Money and Invest Smarter toolkits for ways to stack the deck in your favor.
Retire in comfort
Most of us are working now in order to not work later. But retirement doesn't just happen. It takes active planning, deliberate saving, and regular monitoring.
Sound fun? It's not that bad, especially after you put a plan in motion. We can help with our Retire in Comfort toolkit. Do it now. Your future golf buddies and shuffleboard partners will thank you.
Summer is a great time to whip your finances in shape -- things at the office are slow, and your boss is on vacation. So boost your bottom line now, while there's plenty of 2003 left. Get reading, printing, saving, investing, and de-debting. And if you don't accomplish all you want by December 31, don't worry. There's always 2004.