Category Archives: Finance

Some Ways To Prepare For A Personal Financial Crisis

he thought of being hit with a major negative event that could affect your finances, like a job loss, illness or car accident, can keep anyone awake at night. But the prospect of something expensive, and beyond your control, happening becomes less threatening if you’re properly prepared. This article will describe 10 steps you can take to minimize the impact of a personal financial crisis.
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

1. Maximize Your Liquid Savings
Cash accounts like checking, savings and money market accounts, as well as certificates of deposit (CD) and short-term government investments, will help you the most in a crisis. You’ll want to turn to these resources first, because their value doesn’t fluctuate with market conditions (unlike stocks, index funds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) and other financial instruments you might have invested in). This means you can take your money out at any time without incurring a financial loss. Also, unlike retirement accounts, you won’t face early withdrawal penalties or incur tax penalties when you withdraw your money – one exception is CDs, which usually require you to forfeit some of the interest you’ve earned if you close them early.

Don’t invest in stocks or other higher-risk investments until you have several months’ worth of cash in liquid accounts. How many months’ worth of cash do you need? It depends on your financial obligations and your risk tolerance. If you have a major obligation, like a mortgage or a child’s ongoing tuition payments, you might want to have more months’ worth of expenses saved up than if you’re single and renting an apartment. A three-month expense cushion is considered a bare minimum, but some folks like to keep six months or even up to two years’ worth of expenses in liquid savings to guard against a long bout of unemployment.

2. Make a Budget
If you don’t know exactly how much money you have coming in and going out each month, you won’t know how much money you need for your emergency fund. And if you aren’t keeping a budget, you also have no idea whether you’re currently living below your means or overextending yourself. A budget is not a parent – it can’t and won’t force you to change your behavior – but it is a useful tool that can help you decide if you’re happy with where your money is going and with where you stand financially.

3. Prepare to Minimize Your Monthly Bills
You might not have to do it now, but be ready to start cutting out anything that is not a necessity. If you can quickly get your recurring monthly expenses as low as they can be, you’ll have less difficulty paying your bills when money is tight. Start by looking at your budget and see where you might currently be wasting money. For example, are you paying a monthly fee for your checking account? Explore how to switch to a bank that offers free checking. Are you paying $40 a month for a landline you never use? Learn how you might cancel it, or switch to a lower rate emergency-only plan if you needed to. You might find ways you can start cutting your costs now just to save money.

For example, are you in the habit of letting the heater or air conditioner run when you’re not home, or leaving lights on in rooms you aren’t using? You may be able to trim your utility bills. Now might also be a good time to shop around for lower insurance rates and find out if you can cancel certain types of insurance (like car insurance) in the event of an emergency. Some insurance companies might give you extension, so look for the steps involved and be prepared.

4. Closely Manage Your Bills
There’s no reason to waste any money on late fees or finance charges, yet families do it all the time. During a crisis of a job loss, you should be extra studious in this area. Simply being organized can save you a lot of money when it comes to your monthly bills – one late credit card payment per month could set you back $300 over the course of a year. Or worse, get your card canceled in a time when you might need it as a last resort.

Set a date twice a month to review all your accounts so you don’t miss any due dates. Schedule electronic payments or mail checks so your payment arrives several days before it is due. This way, if a delay occurs, your payment will probably still arrive on time. If you’re having trouble keeping track of all your accounts, start compiling a list. When your list is complete, you can use it to make sure you’re on top of all your accounts and to see if there are any accounts you can combine or close. (Involuntary unemployment credit card insurance may help if you’re laid off, but it may just help your credit card company, check out Insuring A Credit Card Against Job Loss.)

5. Take Stock of Your Non-Cash Assets and Maximize Their Value
Being prepared might include identifying all of your options. Do you have frequent flyer miles you can use if you need to travel? Do you have extra food in your house that you can plan meals around to lower your grocery bills? Do you have any gift cards you can put toward fun and entertainment, or that you can sell for cash? Do you have rewards from a credit card that you can convert to gift cards? All of these assets can help you lower your monthly expenses, but only if you know what you have and use it wisely. Knowing what you have can also prevent you from buying things you don’t need.

6. Pay Down Your Credit Card Debt
If you have credit card debt, the interest charges you’re paying every month probably take up a significant portion of your monthly budget. If you make it a point to pay down your credit card debt, you will reduce your monthly financial obligations and put yourself in a position to start building a nest egg, or be able to build one more quickly. Getting rid of interest payments frees you to put your money toward more important things.

7. Get a Better Credit Card Deal
If you’re currently carrying a balance, it could really help you to transfer that balance to another card with a lower rate. Paying less interest means you can pay off your total debt faster and/or gain some breathing room in your monthly budget. Just make sure that the savings from the lower interest rate are greater than the balance transfer fee. If you’re transferring your balance to a new card with a low introductory APR, aim to pay off your balance during the introductory period, before your rate goes up.

8. Look for Ways to Earn Extra Cash
Everyone has something they can do to earn extra money, whether it’s selling possessions you no longer use online or in a garage sale, babysitting, chasing credit card and bank account opening bonuses, freelancing or even getting a second job. The money you earn from these activities may seem insignificant compared to what you earn at your primary job, but even small amounts of money can add up to something meaningful over time. Besides, many of these activities have side benefits – you might end up with a less cluttered house or discover that you enjoy your side job enough to make it your career.

9. Check Your Insurance Coverage
In step three, we recommended shopping around for lower insurance rates. If you’re carrying too much insurance or if you could be getting the exact same coverage from another provider for the same price, these are obvious changes you can make to lower your monthly bills. That being said, having excellent insurance coverage can prevent one crisis from piling on top of another. It’s also worth making sure that you have the coverage you really need, and not just a bare minimum. This applies to policies you already have as well as to policies you may need to purchase. A disability insurance policy can be indispensable if you sustain a significant illness or injury that prevents you from working, and an umbrella policy can provide coverage where your other policies fall short.

10. Keep Up with Routine Maintenance
If you keep the components of your car, home and physical health in top condition, you can catch and problems while they’re small, and avoid expensive repairs and medical bills later. It’s cheaper to have a cavity filled than to get a root canal, easier to replace a couple of pieces of wood than to have your house tented for termites and better to eat healthy and exercise than end up needing expensive treatments for diabetes or heart disease. You might think that you don’t have the time or money to deal with these things on a regular basis, but they can create much larger disruptions of your time and your finances if you ignore them.

Conclusion
Life is unpredictable, but if there’s anything you can do to stave off disaster, it’s to be prepared and be careful. With the right preparation, you can prevent a financial crisis from ever becoming a crisis and only have to deal with a temporary setback.

Simple Financial Tips For Young Adults

Unfortunately, personal finance has not yet become a required subject in high school or college, so you might be fairly clueless about how to manage your money when you’re out in the real world for the first time.

To help you get started, we’ll take a look at eight of the most important things to understand about money if you want to live a comfortable and prosperous life.

Learn Self-Control

If you’re lucky, your parents taught you this skill when you were a kid. If not, keep in mind that the sooner you learn the fine art of delaying gratification, the sooner you’ll find it easy to keep your finances in order. Although you can effortlessly purchase an item on credit the minute you want it, it’s better to wait until you’ve actually saved up the money. Do you really want to pay interest on a pair of jeans or a box of cereal?

If you make a habit of putting all your purchases on credit cards, regardless of whether you can pay your bill in full at the end of the month, you might still be paying for those items in 10 years. If you want to keep your credit cards for the convenience factor or the rewards they offer, make sure to always pay your balance in full when the bill arrives, and don’t carry more cards than you can keep track of.

Take Control of Your Own Financial Future

If you don’t learn to manage your own money, other people will find ways to (mis)manage it for you. Some of these people may be ill-intentioned, like unscrupulous commission-based financial planners. Others may be well-meaning, but may not know what they’re doing, like Grandma Betty who really wants you to buy a house even though you can only afford a treacherous adjustable-rate mortgage.

Instead of relying on others for advice, take charge and read a few basic books on personal finance. Once you’re armed with personal finance knowledge, don’t let anyone catch you off guard – whether it’s a significant other that slowly siphons your bank account or friends who want you to go out and blow tons of money with them every weekend. Understanding how money works is the first step toward making your money work for you.

Know Where Your Money Goes

Once you’ve gone through a few personal finance books, you’ll realize how important it is to make sure your expenses aren’t exceeding your income. The best way to do this is by budgeting. Once you see how your morning java adds up over the course of a month, you’ll realize that making small, manageable changes in your everyday expenses can have just as big of an impact on your financial situation as getting a raise.

In addition, keeping your recurring monthly expenses as low as possible will also save you big bucks over time. If you don’t waste your money on a posh apartment now, you might be able to afford a nice condo or a house before you know it.

Start an Emergency Fund

One of personal finance’s oft-repeated mantras is “pay yourself first.” No matter how much you owe in student loans or credit card debt, and no matter how low your salary may seem, it’s wise to find some amount – any amount – of money in your budget to save in an emergency fund every month.

Having money in savings to use for emergencies can really keep you out of trouble financially and help you sleep better at night. Also, if you get into the habit of saving money and treating it as a non-negotiable monthly “expense,” pretty soon you’ll have more than just emergency money saved up: you’ll have retirement money, vacation money and even money for a home down payment.

Don’t just sock away this money under your mattress; put it in a high-interest online savings account, a certificate of deposit or a money market account. Otherwise, inflation will erode the value of your savings.

Start Saving for Retirement Now

Just as you headed off to kindergarten with your parents’ hope to prepare you for success in a world that seemed eons away, you need to prepare for your retirement well in advance. Because of the way compound interest works, the sooner you start saving, the less principal you’ll have to invest to end up with the amount you need to retire and the sooner you’ll be able to call working an “option” rather than a “necessity.”

Company-sponsored retirement plans are a particularly great choice because you get to put in pre-tax dollars and the contribution limits tend to be high (much more than you can contribute to an individual retirement plan). Also, companies will often match part of your contribution, which is like getting free money.

Get a Grip on Taxes

It’s important to understand how income taxes work even before you get your first paycheck. When a company offers you a starting salary, you need to know how to calculate whether that salary will give you enough money after taxes to meet your financial goals and obligations. Fortunately, there are plenty of online calculators that have taken the dirty work out of determining your own payroll taxes, such as Paycheck City. These calculators will show you your gross pay, how much goes to taxes and how much you’ll be left with, which is also known as net, or take-home pay.

For example, $35,000 a year in New York will leave you with around $26,399 after taxes without exemptions in 2016, or about $2,200 a month. By the same token, if you’re considering leaving one job for another in search of a salary increase, you’ll need to understand how your marginal tax rate will affect your raise and that a salary increase from $35,000 a year to $41,000 a year won’t give you an extra $6,000, or $500 per month – it will only give you an extra $4,144, or $345 per month (again, the amount will vary depending on your state of residence). Also, you’ll be better off in the long run if you learn to prepare your annual tax return yourself, as there is plenty of bad tax advice and misinformation floating around out there.

Guard Your Health

If meeting monthly health insurance premiums seems impossible, what will you do if you have to go to the emergency room, where a single visit for a minor injury like a broken bone can cost thousands of dollars? If you’re uninsured, don’t wait another day to apply for health insurance; it’s easier than you think to wind up in a car accident or trip down the stairs.

You can save money by getting quotes from different insurance providers to find the lowest rates. Also, by taking daily steps now to keep yourself healthy, like eating fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, not smoking, not consuming alcohol in excess, and even driving defensively, you’ll thank yourself down the road when you aren’t paying exorbitant medical bills.

Guard Your Wealth

If you want to make sure that all of your hard-earned money doesn’t vanish, you’ll need to take steps to protect it. If you rent, get renter’s insurance to protect the contents of your place from events like burglary or fire. Disability-income insurance protects your greatest asset – the ability to earn an income – by providing you with a steady income if you ever become unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness or injury.

If you want help managing your money, find a fee-only financial planner to provide unbiased advice that’s in your best interest, rather than a commission-based financial advisor, who earns money when you sign up with the investments his or her company backs. You’ll also want to protect your money from taxes, which is easy to do with a retirement account, and inflation, which you can do by making sure that all of your money is earning interest through vehicles like high-interest savings accounts, money market funds, CDs, stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

Should You Learn From the Government Fining of Equifax, TransUnion

Sometimes, there’s a personal finance lesson to be gleaned from the decisions made in Washington, D.C.

Here’s one example: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fining two credit-reporting bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, in January. If these names sound familiar, it’s because they’re two of the three bureaus – along with Experian – from which you can request your free yearly credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

The CFPB, which charged the companies more than $23 million in restitutions and fines, penalized the credit-reporting bureaus for several missteps: First, for overstating the usefulness of the scores they sold, and second, for luring customers into pricey monthly subscription services. The CFPB also dinged Equifax for requiring customers to view advertisements before seeing their free credit reports, a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Confusion surrounding credit can lead people to lower their scores by mistake.

“Credit scores are central to a consumer’s financial life and people deserve honest and accurate information about them,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray, in a prepared statement when the penalties were announced.

But while the action against the bureaus may seem far removed from your own financial life, there are lessons that savvy consumers can take away from it. Here are your rights – and some red flags to be alert for – when checking your credit score.

You don’t always know what score a lender is using. Part of the action against Equifax and TransUnion revolves around the fact that both companies led customers to believe that they were accessing the same credit scores that lenders like, say, credit card issuers, use to make credit decisions.

That’s misleading, experts say. “Unless you are turned down for credit [when a lender must disclose your score], the score you see from any other source is not necessarily the score the lender is using,” says Gerri Detweiler, head of market education for Nav, a credit service for business owners, based in San Mateo, California.

Yes, a solid credit score is a crucial component to being approved for credit. But the truth is that lenders use scores from a variety of sources, sometimes integrating their own proprietary formulas. So, the likelihood that you are going to buy the exact same score variation that any given lender will use is remote, says credit expert John Ulzheimer, who formerly worked with FICO and Equifax.

But, Ulzheimer notes, the scores sold by Equifax and TransUnion weren’t without value. TransUnion’s VantageScore is commercially available to lenders and may be used by some to determine creditworthiness, he says. And having a high credit score through TransUnion or Equifax still points to the likelihood that you have a high credit score elsewhere.
If you have to input your credit card information, the service probably isn’t free. The CFPB also based its action against the two credit bureaus on the fact that consumers thought they were signing up for free or $1 credit scores. In actuality, consumers were signing on to a limited-time trial after which they were automatically enrolled in a subscription program and charged $16 or more each month.

A major takeaway from this applies to virtually any consumer service. “If you’re going to be entering a credit card number, then there’s probably going to be a cost to it eventually,” Detweiler says.

Sometimes, these paid credit services are useful, Detweiler says. For example, consumers may want to sign up for paid identify-theft protection or credit-monitoring services. But don’t get sucked into signing up for a credit subscription you don’t need, want or use.

“In the world of online credit-related services and products, there are two definitions of the word ‘free,'” Ulzheimer says. “There is Webster’s definition, and there is a definition that includes things like ‘conditionally free.'” Having to input credit card data hints at the fact that the service is only free up to a point, Ulzheimer adds.
There are plenty of free ways to get your credit score. When it comes down to it, you shouldn’t be paying for a credit score these days anyway, credit experts say. “I can’t believe consumers are still buying credit scores,” Ulzheimer explains. “There are so many ways to get free credit scores. I can’t believe people are shelling out money at all.”

Sites, such as Credit Karma, Credit.com and Credit Sesame, may hand out free scores (in exchange for registering with your personal information). Your credit card issuer may also include a credit score with your regular statement.

The fact remains: You shouldn’t need to pay for your credit report, a document outlining your outstanding debts and payment history. You’re still owed a free credit report once per year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

More Information About How the Big Game Hits Your Wallets

To say that football fans are invested in the Super Bowl is an understatement. We spend dozens of hours and hundreds of dollars supporting our favorite teams from voluntary off-season workouts through the 16-week season and, hopefully, deep into the playoffs. And if our squad is fortunate enough to reach the big game, many of us are willing to drop everything – from responsibilities to a lot of cash – in order to savor the moment.

And while you might expect curbed enthusiasm this year, as the Super Bowl follows up its golden-anniversary game with a matchup featuring the New England Patriots for the seventh time in 15 years, ticket prices and advertising dollars say otherwise. Plus, you don’t need to be a fan of the Patriots or the opposing Atlanta Falcons to have a vested interest in this spectacle of American culture.

Read on for a glimpse at how the Super Bowl impacts our wallets in all sorts of ways.
1. $4,300 per ticket: Less than a week before kickoff, the average Super Bowl LI ticket is selling for $4,284, according to StubHub, with remaining tickets ranging from $1,500 to $15,432. To put those figures in perspective, the average ticket to this year’s Super Bowl costs about as much as three months of mortgage payments for the average homebuyer these days, who has a roughly $300,000 loan and a 4.19 percent APR , according to data from Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association. And the most expensive ticket would cover more than 10 months of mortgage payments.

Super Bowl tickets aren’t just pricey relative to home loans, either. Tickets to the previous four Super Bowls averaged $3,334, which is well above the $2,837 record for a World Series game, set just a few months ago for the historic Game 7 matchup between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, according to TicketIQ.

2. $2,000 or more on travel: A last-minute trip to Houston for the Super Bowl could cost you dearly, depending on where you’re coming from. For example, the cheapest flight on Kayak.com from New York to Houston, leaving on Feb. 3 and returning Monday, costs more than $1,000 per person. And the cheapest option out of Los Angeles is more than $670.

The travel expenses certainly don’t stop there, either. The average out-of-town visitor to this year’s Super Bowl is expected to spend about $1,360, based on the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee’s projection of 140,000 out-of-towners and PWC’s forecast of $190 million in direct spending.

As a result, each Super Bowl attendee can expect to shell out at least $2,000 on travel-related expenses.

3. $424 million in chicken wings: Roughly 112 million people in the U.S. tuned into Super Bowl 50 last year, according to Nielsen. But we weren’t just watching. We also did our fair share of eating, too, scarfing down 1.3 billion chicken wings, according to the National Chicken Council. That’s works out to more than 162 million pounds of chicken, 11 wings per viewer and $424.4 million spent overall.

4. $60 million in booze: Americans spend about $60 million more than normal on beer, wine and spirits the week leading up to the Super Bowl, according to Nielsen and The New York Times. That’s an extra $0.53 per viewer, including those who are underage as well as nondrinkers.

5. $400 million in gambling losses: A record $132.54 million was wagered on Super Bowl 50 at Nevada sportsbooks, according to Nevada Gaming Control Board, which also found that the house profited to the tune of $13.31 million. That obviously represents just a drop in the bucket of total Super Bowl betting, as illegal wagers pushed the amount risked above $4 billion, according to the American Gaming Association.

But the official numbers do show how much gamblers of all kinds stand to lose on Super Sunday: about 10 percent.
6. $312 million in lost wages: Around 1.5 million people call in sick to work the Monday after the Super Bowl. That amounts to $208 for the average private-industry worker without paid sick leave, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and $312 million overall.

Finally, while football fans are in orbit as the Super Bowl returns to Space City for the third time, the stock market might not continue soaring for much longer if the Patriots win. The Super Bowl stock market indicator, which has been right 82 percent of the time, says the market will fall with an AFC win and rise if the NFC comes out on top. So if you’re invested in more than football, you might want to pull for the Falcons.

Should Know About 25 Ways to Improve Your Finances

A new year often inspires new habits, including financial ones. If you want to put yourself on a path to build wealth throughout the year, then consider these 25 steps, all of which are designed to help you rein in spending and work toward greater financial security. They include both offensive moves, like saving more, as well as defensive ones, like protecting yourself from identity thieves.

1. Set your goals early and share them.

Sharing financial goals with friends – and even strangers through social media – can help you articulate just what those goals are and also hold you accountable. Indeed, research on goal-setting suggests that making public statements about goals helps people commit to them, whether they be money or health related. As 2016 kicks off, consider sharing your goals on Facebook, Twitter or a social goal-setting site like Linkagoal.

If you’re stuck, flipping through images can help inspire and focus goal-setting, says Ellen Rogin, a financial services professional and co-author of “Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality.” She encourages people to flip through motivational images such as beaches and sailboats when planning their retirement. This exercise is especially useful for partners to make sure they’re on the same page.

2. Guard against identity theft.

Identity thieves can steal not just your money but also your identity, which allows them to create new, fraudulent accounts in your name. The cost can add up to tens of thousands of dollars as well as hours of your time trying to rectify the situation.

One of the most common online identity theft methods is for an attacker to send an email with a hyperlink that leads victims to an official-looking site that requests personal information. People can be fooled into sharing their names, addresses, credit card numbers and even Social Security numbers this way. To keep yourself safe, avoid clicking on unfamiliar URLs sent to you via email, even if at first glance they appear to be from your bank or a retailer.

3. Get more out of your workplace benefits.

If you’re lucky enough to have a job with benefits, then it pays to make sure you’re getting as much out of them as possible. Aside from salary, take a close look at available retirement accounts (making sure to pick up any matching benefits), flexible spending accounts, financial literacy programs and wellness support, which can include free counseling. Health insurance and disability insurance can also help protect your finances in the long term.

4. Use tools to help you save more.

Apps can make it easier to protect bank accounts from fraud and save more money, and it can pay to use them. Some of the best​ entrants in the field include BillGuard, an app that flags potential fraudulent charges or errors, and Key Ring, which collects your loyalty cards digitally, so you can snag savings even if you leave your cards at home.

Other useful financial tools include PriceGrabber and RedLaser, which help you quickly compare prices when shopping online or in stores, and PriceBlink, a browser add-on that lets you know if there is a lower price elsewhere online. Mint offers a free budgeting tool to help you track your spending, and You Need a Budget is another good option.

5. Become more financially literate.

Financial literacy is a key factor​ when it comes to adults building wealth over time, according to research at the University of Massachusetts. If people understand basic concepts when it comes to saving, investing and compound interest, then they are more likely to sit on a significant nest egg as they get older. That’s why making an effort to educate yourself, whether through workplace education programs or ​online tutorials, can pay off.

6. Get on the same financial page as your partner.

Coordinating your spending and saving habits with your partner can not only lead to a smoother relationship, it can also mean more money in your joint bank accounts. The blogging couple Derek and Carrie Olsen​ of derekandcarrie.com suggest holding a monthly get-together to review finances and to share one bank account, which can ease coordination. They also advocate developing a five-year plan, which can help guide daily choices.

7. Simplify your digital life.​​

If you’re often tempted by emails promising amazing deals and killer savings, then you might want to consider unsubscribing from the dozens of retailer email lists you may have unknowingly signed up for. The tool Unroll.Me makes it easy; with a few clicks you can either unsubscribe or opt for a daily “Rollup” email that you can peruse at your leisure, instead of constantly getting pinged by unimportant emails all day long.

8. Prepare your money to age well.​

As you get older and prepare to retire, it’s important to make sure your money will last. That means ensuring your investments are in a portfolio that’s aggressive enough to outpace inflation and reviewing your budget for any big leaks. You can also ask your bank what services they have in place to protect older adults from fraud

9. Learn from millennial spending habits.​

Millennials might still be at the relative beginning of their financial journeys, but they have some useful habits to teach the rest of us. Young consumers who experienced the Great Recession as they were coming of age tend to be savvy shoppers, maximizing coupons and savings. They also cut costs by taking on DIY projects and prioritizing expenses that are most important to them, like travel.

10. Spend less on food.​

Food might be one constant in our budgets, but there are still ways to trim those costs. Buying in bulk, cooking at home as much as possible and​ cooking meals that can be stored in the freezer for later are among the smart strategies. By planning meals and keeping perishable items visible at the front of your fridge, you can also help minimize waste.

11. Pay off expensive debt.​

If you’re still carrying around expensive debt in the form of credit card debt or other loans, then it’s time to make a plan to pay it off. In “The Debt Escape Plan,” author Beverly Harzog suggests doing just that by setting specific targets for yourself (for example, pay off one credit card by April) and getting the support you need in the form of a credit counselor if necessary. You might also want to look for ways to scale back spending while simultaneously earning more money, which can then be put toward the debt.

12. Know how to start over if you need to. ​

If you’ve had a rough 2015 and 2016 is about rebuilding, then you might want to focus on prioritizing savings and re-establishing your credit, especially if it has been destroyed by previous troubles, like filing for bankruptcy. Financial experts suggest going slow, making on-time monthly payments, to eventually reach a higher credit score.

13. Use social media to improve your finances.​

Facebook and Twitter aren’t all fun and games; social media tools can also help you manage your finances. Tweeting to a retailer about a customer service concern is one of the fastest ways to get a response (or even a refund), and fleshing out your LinkedIn profile can help you land new clients or a new job. You can also check your Facebook “about” section to make sure you’re not revealing details relevant to banking security questions that could make it easier for someone to hack into your account.

14. Improve your credit score.​

Giving your credit score a boost can help you land a better interest rate on your mortgage or a new car loan. To improve it, you can start by paying off debt, requesting a credit line increase and always making on-time payments. Late payments and a high debt-to-credit line ratio can hurt your score.

15. Spend less on clothes.​

Clothing can be a giant money suck, but there are ways to limit spending without sacrificing your style. Buying slightly off-season gear, swapping gently used clothes with friends and using rental sites like Rent the Runway for formal events can all help reduce costs.

16. Max out your retirement savings.​

If you didn’t meet your retirement savings goals in 2015, then you’ll want to be sure to do so in 2016. If you have access to a 401(k) through work, then you can set it up to automatically deduct a certain percentage from your paycheck. Otherwise, you can check on your eligibility for an IRA account.

17. Prepare your finances for natural (and man-made) disasters.​

A bad storm or power outage can leave your financial life in disarray. To prepare for any kind of unexpected disaster, you can come up with a plan for alternate housing, prepare an emergency kit and keep nonperishable food on hand. If you don’t have access to heat or running water, you’ll want to make sure you can still keep your family fed.

18. Manage household finances better.​

Money can get more complicated as your family grows. Using an app like HomeBudget can make it easier to share expenditure information with your spouse. HelloWallet’s emergency savings calculator is also useful to see if you have enough savings on hand to get you through a difficult period.

19. Plug money leaks.​

Paying more than you need to for transportation, especially if you frequently use Uber or taxis, splurging on name-brand products and going out to dinner are among the common money leaks cited by financial advisors. To plug those holes in your budget, take a close look at what you spent money on over the last month by scrutinizing receipts or your credit card statement, and pick some areas to cut back on.

20. Check up on your insurance policies.​

Life insurance is not particularly fun to take out, but it is an essential part of safeguarding your (and your family’s) financial security, especially if you are the primary breadwinner. Reviewing your policies once a year to make sure they are in good standing and you have enough coverage is a good idea. You can also check if you have options to take out supplemental coverage through your workplace.

21. Calculate your net worth.​

Knowing your net worth is a key step toward building it, so take some time, at least once a year, to crunch some numbers. Run through your current assets and liabilities to figure out your current net worth, and then you can work on building from there.

22. Reflect on your money beliefs.​

Sometimes, building your wealth has to start by confronting deep-seated fears and beliefs around money. Perhaps your upbringing led you to believe that you can’t enjoy earning money, or you don’t deserve to have a big bank account, so you sabotage yourself with actions that ultimately hurt your finances​. Exploring those long-held beliefs and massaging them can help you make smarter money decisions.

23. Rebalance your investments regularly.​

If you invest too conservatively, then your money might not keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, if you are overly aggressive, swings in the market could lead to a loss of assets at an inconvenient time, like shortly before retirement. Review your portfolio at least once a year to make sure you have the right mix for you; a financial advisor can also help.

24. Take advantage of freebies.​ ​

You might be surrounded by free items and not even realize it: Local museums, libraries, public parks and outdoor concerts are often all around, but you ​might be overlooking them. Taking advantage of those freebies can help cut your entertainment costs.

25. Carpe diem.​

As important as it is to save money, it’s also important to spend it in ways that bring you joy before it’s too late. That’s why financial advisors recommend traveling in retirement before health issues make it too challenging and spending as much time with family members as possible.