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10 Financial Resolutions to Make This Year

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The New Year is a time of renewal; the time where we reflect on what went right, but also a time to reflect on what we could have done differently. Fitness and finance are usually the top two categories where people have the most room for improvement and while fitness improvements can be a little straightforward (eat better and exercise), figuring out how to better manage our finances can come with some complexities.

The following are 10 financial resolutions you can make to be financially fit in 2018:

1. Set Clear Financial Goals

If you don’t know where you are going, then it is going to be very difficult to get there. 2018 has to be the year that you say enough is enough. No more just being satisfied with intentions, instead you have to create a plan that will help you execute on your goals. In order to do so, our goals must be clear and concise. It’s not enough to say, “I want to manage my money better this year or I want to start saving more.” Instead, your financial goals should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, & Time-bound). So instead of “I will pay down debt,” you will say “I will pay down my debt of $15,000 in 2018 by paying off $625 every two weeks when I get my paycheck.”

2. Begin Using Technology to Better Manage Finances

Using technology to better manage your finances can tell you in a heartbeat whether you are spending too much money on Ubers, or if you can afford to pay off more of your credit card bills. Technology can make it easier for you to invest and grow our money as well. Apps like Mint, Acorn, Digit, and Wealthfront are great places to start.

3. Reduce Your Debt

Reducing debt is a great practice to do all year round, but as you make your resolutions make sure that you put debt reduction high on your list. Not only are there uncertainties with the job market, but you want to reduce the amount of money you owe to other people to assure that you can weather any storm. When you have fewer financial obligations to others, you are far more likely to handle unexpected expenses. Consider snowballing your debt by paying off your lower balance debts until you pay off all.

4. Pay Yourself First

Paying yourself first, which simply means to save money in a high yield savings account prior to paying any bills, is not only a great financial resolution to have, but can also help you achieve many of your clear and concise financial goals (see #1). This also assures that you have a cushion available to take care of your everyday needs in case of a financial emergency. Do this by saving at least 10% of your income every time you get paid.

5. Stop Paying Unnecessary Fees

Whether it is overdraft fees, minimum balance fees, ATM fees, annual fees, etc., one of your financial resolutions should be to rid yourself of paying unnecessary fees. We may not think that $3 here and there is a big deal, but if you add it up throughout the year, it can literally amount to thousands of dollars. Instead of throwing money away, find an account that is totally fee-free.

6. Diversify Your Investments

Investing your money in order to allow it to grow is a great financial strategy. But, if your investments are not diversified, then you can be setting yourself up for a financial disaster, especially since you will have a new president in 2017. According to Kiplingers.com, the stock market has, for the most part, ebbed and flowed when a new president is elected. For the past 182 years, wars, down markets and recessions tend to start in the first two years of a president’s term. So in order to make sure that your investments aren’t susceptible to loss, review them with your financial adviser and diversify as much as possible.

7. Protect Your Assets

We can all agree that we work hard for our money. Instead of leaving your financial security to chance, you must make sure that you are properly protecting your finances. You do this by looking into the right insurance based on your needs. Whether it is rental insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, short term/long term disability insurance, or travel insurance, you need to make sure that your assets are protected in the event of an unforeseen emergency.

8. Start Your Side-Hustle

Many of you have been putting your passion projects off for way too long. Let 2018 be the year that you make your side-hustle a reality. Technology has made it convenient for you to start a business successfully without disrupting your current source of income, so make sure you create a plan that will allow your passion to finally bloom.

9. Pay it Forward

The late Muhammad Ali once said, “The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth,” and while you likely have things you would like to improve in your life, you are still very much blessed. A great way to show gratitude for your blessings is to be a blessing to others. This year make a conscious effort to give back to those who are less fortunate. It can be by donating your time to feed the homeless or donating to a good cause. It can even be as simple as anonymously paying for a customer in line. There is magic in being of service and you’ll be surprise how much good will come back to you.

10. Increase Your Financial IQ

Change is the only thing that is certain in life (that and taxes). As change happens you want to make sure that you are keeping up with it. In 2017, increase your financial IQ by reading a new finance or business book each month. One great suggestion is Why Can’t Banks be as Easy as Uber written by yours truly (shameless plug). If books aren’t your thing, then subscribe to a business or finance podcast. If podcasts aren’t your thing either, then make a conscious effort to tune into financial news. There are many innovations happening in the financial industry that can help you manage and grow your money better.

What are your resolutions for 2018? Do you have any plans to overhaul your finances? Tell us in the comments below!

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

5 Hidden Risks in Retirement That Could Affect Your Financial Security

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Being well-prepared for retirement is wonderful, but there is no fail-safe plan. Things can unravel due to many inherent post-retirement risks. Understanding those risks that lie ahead and how they can harm financial security is key to making critical adjustments in a retirement plan. Sometimes without those changes, the impact of unfavorable and unpredictable events can be far more severe.

“Once you have a retirement plan in place, it’s not set in stone,” says Clayton Alexander (www.retireteton.com), an investment adviser and founder of Teton Wealth Group. “Things change. You may add or lose family members, your retirement goals may change, the economic environment may create new considerations, and financial innovations may present new strategies. Once per year is a minimum in terms of making sure your retirement plans (and beneficiaries) are constantly up-to-date.”

Alexander says retirees and those making retirement plans should be aware of these five risks:  

  • Longevity. Running out of money before they die is one of the primary concerns of most retirees. This worry is heightened by the fact that the average life expectancy has increased. “A pension or an annuity can lessen the risk, but carefully investigate any company where you’d place an annuity and be cautious of fees and interest rates,” Alexander says. “It’s best to tailor your plan to run to life expectancy plus five years.”
  • Loss of income. “Make sure both you and your spouse are protected from the unexpected,” Alexander says. “Consider the financial impact of the loss of one spouse. Remember that your surviving spouse will only get the highest of your two Social Security checks. A spouse’s death can bring additional financial burdens, including lingering medical bills and debts. Life insurance and estate planning are important vehicles to protect survivors.”
  • Health care costs. Longer life expectancy could lead to high costs in a long-term care facility. “It’s estimated that approximately 50% of people over 65 will need long-term care,” Alexander says. “Do not overspend on policies that may be subject to drastic premium increases. And surprising to some, Medicare is not free — your premiums for coverage are usually deducted from your Social Security check. Medicare doesn’t cover dental, hearing or vision, is subject to deductibles, and doesn’t cover long-term care. Long-term care insurance is advisable.”
  • Negative return risk. “A 50% gain does not allow a portfolio to recover from a 50% loss,” Alexander says. “In fact, a 100% gain is required to restore a 50% loss. The ‘buy and hold’ strategy that works when you are young — where you wait for the markets to come back up after a downturn — does not apply in retirement as we saw in 2008, when many people’s retirements were wiped out. Common stocks have substantially out-performed other investments over time and thus are usually recommended for retirees as part of a balanced asset allocation strategy, but the rate of return you earn can be significantly lower than the long-term trends.”
  • Inflation risk. “You should plan on prices for food, goods and services getting higher during retirement, reducing your buying power incrementally as you are living on a fixed income,” Alexander says. “Your retirement plan has to factor that in. Ways retirees can curb the effects of inflation include annuity products with a cost-of-living adjustment feature and investing in equities, a home, and other assets.”

“Understanding what the potential post-retirement risks are and considering them in the retirement planning stage,” Alexander says, “can help to ensure that they are mitigated and properly managed.”  

About Clayton Alexander Clayton Alexander (www.retireteton.com) is an investment adviser and founder of Teton Wealth Group. A graduate of Dixie State University with a B.A. in administration, Alexander also worked at Northwestern Mutual and Goldman Sachs. He is licensed for life and health insurance in the state of Utah and has passed the Series 65 securities exam. Alexander focuses on building holistic retirement plans, and with the launch of Teton Wealth he developed the four-step Ascent Plan – a system to help clients gain clarity and perspective on creating a financial plan for safe, secure and tax-efficient retirement income and estate transition.  

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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Are Americans Undervaluing Paid Time off + Quick Trip Tips

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It’s August, which for many Europeans means taking almost the entire month off. So why is it difficult for Americans to take even the little vacation time they receive? A recent piece in The Economist states workers in the U.S. are doing it all wrong by going on short holidays, which can add even more stress or taking none. Instead, it’s essential for employees to recharge their batteries. It’s also beneficial for companies to have a consistent holiday month during which junior employees can head to the beach, and managers can take stock of things, says the report.

While many Americans may not receive paid time off, especially those that only work part-time, even those who receive it generally don’t take all of it. What we don’t realize is that not taking a vacation is like giving money back to your employer, especially with companies that have a use it or lose it policy. Which should encourage employees to use their time but unfortunately it does not. According to recent polls conducted by Bankrate, nearly 2600 US adults say they plan to take a quarter of their vacation days while 4% are not planning to take any vacation time at all.

Time off is a valuable perk, to the tune of millions of dollars! Just to bring the point home in 2017 Americans gave up 212 million days off that amounts to $62.2 billion in lost benefits! So, take your vacations and follow the tips below to not break the bank while taking time off:

  1. Take a Staycation – Stay local and vacation somewhere that is less than a day drive away, this helps save gas, mileage, and spending on lodging. Look for local attractions, vineyards, interesting museums and landmarks or even travel to your closest big city and be a tourist for a day. You would be amazed at how much you can discover and learn by staying local and all on the cheap! It’s a bonus if you have friends in the town your visiting they can serve as a tour guide and let you stay over for free if they have the room.
  2. Book Flights Off-Season – July 4th, Memorial Day and Labor Day seem like a great time to go on vacation; unfortunately, everyone is planning to take time off during those busy weekends, and ticket prices are through the roof because of it. Book flights after major holidays and during the week you will generally find that they are cheaper than weekend flights.
  3. Take a Road Trip – Road trips are fun and cheaper than taking a plane, especially if you must rent a car when you get to your destination anyway. Plan cool stops along the way and finds interesting places to eat that way you can make the journey part of the vacation.
  4. Plan to Eat In – Food adds up on vacation so pack food and making one or two meals in your hotel can keep you under budget.
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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Top Ten Freshman Money Myths

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Starting college is one of the most important and exciting times of your life. Now that you’re all “checked-in,” enjoy your college experience without worrying about where your next meal will come from by chasing away these common freshman money myths. (more…)

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