The start of a new year is a popular time to asses your physical health. But what your financial health? Chances are, there's an area you can improve on, whether it's being more frugal or kicking some debt to the curb. In fact, 67% of Americans admit that they're not in the best financial shape they could be in, according to a new survey from Marcus by Goldman Sachs. If you feel similarly, here are a few ways to improve your financial picture.
1. Boost your savings
We all need emergency savings to cover life's unplanned expenses, and we need retirement savings to keep up with our bills when we're older. If you're lacking in either regard, make 2020 the year you finally do better. First and foremost, build an emergency fund with at least three months' worth of essential living expenses. This should take priority over retirement savings, because it's the cash pile you'll access when an immediate bill suddenly lands in your lap that you weren't prepared for. Once your emergency fund is solid, you can move on to making regular contributions to an IRA or 401(k). Ideally, your goal should be to set aside 15% or more of your income for the future, but if that's not feasible right now, start small and work your way up over time.
2. Get yourself on a budget
Without a budget, you're apt to have a hard time tracking your expenses and understanding where your paycheck really goes month after month. And if you're trying to save more money, that's counterproductive. Thankfully, setting up a budget is easy. Just list your ongoing expenses, comb through previous bank account and credit card statements to determine what those expenses typically cost you, and see what your total monthly spending generally amounts to. If you find that you're spending all or most of your paycheck, you'll know that it's time to reassess your expenses and start cutting back.
3. Shed your debt
The longer you hold onto unhealthy credit card debt, the more money you'll throw away in interest, and the more you'll risk damaging your credit score. A better bet? Come up with a debt payoff plan. Cut back on spending or get a second job to boost your income, and use that money to chip away at your credit card balances. At the same time, aim to make your existing debt more affordable by transferring your balances to a single card with a lower interest rate, or consolidating your debt into a lower-interest loan.
4. Make sure you're adequately insured
A big part of being in good financial shape means having the right insurance to protect yourself. If you don't have life insurance, look into buying a policy. You don't need to sign up for expensive premiums with a multi-million-dollar death benefit; a low-cost term policy that pays out a few hundred thousand dollars upon your passing may be adequate for your family. At the same time, make sure you have enough health insurance, auto insurance, and homeowners insurance to avoid having to potentially foot some very expensive bills in the coming year.
Just as it's important to be in good physical shape, so too is your financial health important. If your finances could be improved upon, take the opportunity to change them for the better. That way, you'll really have something to be proud of by the time 2020 wraps up.