1. Track Expenses
This is the first step everyone should take this month in order to get an overall picture of their finances. Theresa Wan doesn’t mind if you used a simple notebook or do everything online through Mint.com. You’ll need this foundation before you can go to the next goals. It will give you an overall picture of your finances so you’ll know how much you have to spend, save, and donate this year. Get started now!
2. Six Month Emergency Fund
Now that you’ve tracked your monthly expenses, Theresa suggests multiplying that number by six. This is the amount you should have in your six month emergency fund. While that number might seem overwhelming, start small and eventually you’ll get there. You never know what’s going to happen and it’s best not to go into debt when disaster strikes. This is a lofty goal for the new year, but I had to include it. Most experts agree, it’s important and necessary in this economy. You never know what’s going to happen!
3. Save 1% for Retirement
Theresa posed a “1% Challenge” on her blog. She wants “all of us – to think about our spending habits and see if we can save an additional one percent of our salary and put that towards our retirement fund.”
She knows it doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up. She continues, “Let’s say your salary is $50,000, 1% of that is $500. If you saved an additional $500 every year for the next 30 years in your retirement plan, and assuming a 5% average annual growth rate, you will have an additional $33,000 in your account in 30 years! And during those 30 years, you won’t be paying any taxes on the account while it’s growing.”
#4 Open a 529 Plan and Contribute for Gifts
I loved this blog post she wrote before the holiday season. While the holidays are over, this tip can be used moving forward for birthdays. She suggests, “Before you go all out every year and shower your nephews, nieces and grandchildren with presents, consider the possibility of splitting your gift budget between a small wrapped gift (so they still have something to open from you!) and a contribution to a 529 plan set up for them for college education.” Find out more information about 529 plans on the official US Securities and Exchange Commission website. Ready to open one? Visit the College Savings Plans Network to find the best plan for you.
#5 Teach Kids About Money
So much has been said about the importance of giving your kids an allowance, and Theresa agrees. The problem is, I always forget! I was stoked to learn about Tykoon, a new app from one of the founders of LendingTree. It makes it so easy for kids to earn, save, donate, and buy real things. The app is a must-have for parents who want to teach their kids the importance of a dollar, but need help getting organized. I can’t wait to show it to my kids. I’ll never ever ever have to do the dishes again!