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15 Smart Money Moves to Make This Summer

Author: Selena Maranjian | June 14, 2021

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Improve your financial security

It's dangerous to go through life living from paycheck to paycheck -- especially since those paychecks will eventually stop coming and Social Security retirement benefits recently averaged just $1,552 per month, or only about $18,624 annually.

Here are 15 things you can do to significantly strengthen your financial condition and set yourself up for a less stressful life. See how many of them you need to act on, and then start tackling the list. This summer is a great time to start.

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1. Get out of debt

First off, there are few more effective ways to bolster your financial health than paying off any high-interest-rate debt (such as that from credit cards) you have. It can be a daunting project, but you can do it. Many people have paid off tens of thousands of dollars of debt -- some even hundreds of thousands.

ALSO READ: 3 Unstoppable Stocks to Buy as the Economy Opens Back Up

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2. Make a budget

If you don't have and use a budget, this summer is a perfect time to start. The process of setting up a budget can be very illuminating, as you review records of your spending over the past several months and list all your expenses (including annual and biannual ones, such as some insurance payments). Doing so can help you spot places where you can rein in spending. Total your income and then offset it with all your nonnegotiable expenses (including retirement savings), leaving discretionary spending for the end, if there's any left. If you don't like what you see, work to bring in more money and/or spend less.

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3. Stock up an emergency fund

If you don't have an emergency fund loaded with at least several months' worth of living expenses, the sooner you set one up, the better. Be sure to account not only for housing and food costs, but also insurance, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and all other nonnegotiable expenses. The money should be easily accessible, in case your household experiences a job loss or a costly health expense, so don't park it in the stock market, which can be volatile over the short term.

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4. Review your insurance

Summer is full of fun -- at the beach, on the golf course, in the garden, or just curled up with a book. You don't even have to interrupt such activities for long to handle this important financial matter: reviewing your insurance. Be sure that you've protected your health, your home (owned or rented), your vehicles, and perhaps your life and even your pets. Disability insurance is also smart for many of us to have. Spend a little time calling various insurers every year to make sure you still have the best deal. The best and lowest-priced auto insurance policy you find this year may not be the best for you in a year or two, as different insurers use different formulas to price policies. Consider increasing your deductibles, too, for lower premiums -- but make sure you can pay any deductible, should you need to.

ALSO READ: 5 Simple Ways Investing Can Double Your Money

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5. Check your credit score

It's a good idea to check your credit score regularly, especially if you have any plans to borrow money or apply for a great credit card in the coming year or two. Having a low score can doom you to mediocre interest rates, while a high score will get you better (lower) rates -- potentially saving you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. If your score is low, you can work to increase it by paying bills on time and reducing your debt load, among other things.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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6. Increase your savings

Most of us would do well to save and invest more -- for our retirement and perhaps for other goals, such as a down payment on a home or looming college expenses. Take some time to think about what expenses you may be able to shrink or eliminate. For example, many people are paying for gym memberships every month -- and not going to the gym at all. That could be costing you $40 per month, or almost $500 annually. There are many ways to save, such as cutting your own grass or canceling your cable subscription in favor of one or two streaming services.

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7. Automate your savings

A great way to save more is to automate your savings as much as possible. If you're spending much of your paycheck every pay period and are only socking away whatever is left, you may be shortchanging your future. Make saving a priority -- and see if you can have a portion of each paycheck automatically sent off to a savings or investment account.

ALSO READ: 3 Proven Ways to Double Your Money

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8. Save for retirement

Most of us need to be saving aggressively and investing effectively for retirement, because Social Security is not likely to provide enough income in our later years. Look into opening a traditional or Roth IRA, as that can help you accumulate a lot of money on a tax-advantaged basis. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, participate in it -- at least enough to max out any available matching funds.

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9. Open a brokerage account

If you have more money to invest than you can park each year in an IRA and/or a 401(k), consider having a separate, taxable brokerage account where you can invest in stocks and mutual funds. Your gains will be taxable for the year in which they occur, and your losses can offset those gains. Having a regular, taxable brokerage account can help you save even more for your future.

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10. Learn about stocks and start investing

A brokerage account can't help you much if you don't know what to do with it, so perhaps include a book or two on investing in the stock market among your summer reads. Learn what stocks are, how to find the most promising companies in which to invest, how to place buy or sell orders, and more. And know that you don't have to become a stock market expert. You might just invest simply, in a low-fee index fund. Even superinvestor Warren Buffett has strongly recommended index funds.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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11. Get a side hustle

When the days are long, it can feel like an easier time to generate more income by taking on a little work on the side. There are many, many ways to beef up your income. Sure, you can work at a local store on some evenings and weekends, but you might get more creative than that. Depending on your skills and interests, you might tutor kids in person or online, give music or language lessons, sell items you make (such as soaps, scents, sweaters, jewelry, or jigsaw puzzles), or drive for a ridesharing service. You might even rent out space in your home via a service such as Airbnb.

ALSO READ: 7 Moves to Ensure You're a Retirement Multimillionaire

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12. Invest in yourself -- professionally

Summer can be a good time to invest in your career, perhaps by working on an additional degree or professional certification to help you advance. Joining Toastmasters can help you improve your public speaking skills, if that's been a challenge for you. Simply reading up on developments in your field can help, too. Or engage in some social activities where you can network with others. You might also shop for a more professional wardrobe -- heeding the advice to dress for the job you want.

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13. Invest in yourself -- health-wise

Summer is a perfect time to start investing in your health -- which can also be a savvy financial move, since healthier people are likely to need less healthcare and therefore likely to spend less on it. You might join a gym, of course, but you can just commit to going for long walks a few times a week or doing yoga at home. Eating healthful foods and reducing your junk food consumption can also help. And be sure to have annual visits with your doctor and get any recommended screenings each year.

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14. Give your kids some money lessons

While your kids are out of school, consider giving them some lessons -- about money. If you can get them interested in investing, you might be able to set them up for a life of financial security. The lessons can be low-key and even fun. Talk about your household's finances -- what various things like electric bills and mortgage payments cost. Let them see you paying bills, and perhaps discuss the dangers of credit card debt as you pay credit card bills. Talk about stock investing, too, and businesses in general, so that they start viewing companies as wealth-building opportunities for themselves. You might even invest together, perhaps beginning with a mock portfolio.

ALSO READ: Managing My Money Takes Just 20 Minutes a Month. Here's How

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15. Set some goals and make some plans

Finally, if you do nothing else this summer, at least set some financial goals and draw up plans to achieve them. You might figure out how much money you'll need to retire with, for example, and determine how much you'll have to save and invest each year to get there. If you have college expenses coming up, see how much you need to save for that -- and how you'll do so. It might be helpful to take on a side gig or two for a while, if you're far behind where you should be.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

Previous

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Great things are possible

Take advantage of summer's long days to tackle financial matters regularly. Perhaps spend a little time reading up on financial topics each week, and cross an item -- such as reviewing your insurance or creating a budget -- off your to-do list weekly, too. If you're in debt, work on paying that down every week. The more actions you take, the stronger your household can be, financially -- which can give you great peace of mind and help you sleep better, too.

Selena Maranjian has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Airbnb, Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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