Tips to Improving Your Finances in 2018

January 10, 2018

As we continue on into the new year, we want to remind you – if you haven’t already – to add improving your finances to your list of resolutions. It’s not too late to start setting goals for 2018! To help get you started, here is a list of tips to improving your finances this coming year.

  1. Get a budget buddy
    Just like dieting or working out is easier with someone to help hold you accountable, the same goes for budgeting. Team up with a friend to set attainable goals and to check in on/motivate each other regularly. Make it fun by treating yourself every time you reach a goal!
  2. Get your budget in shape
    A budget that maps out your expected income, fixed expenses, what you plan to set aside for savings, and what’s available for everything else you may want can help you stay on track toward your financial goals. If you don’t already have a budget, the new-year milestone is a great time to start. If you’re already using a budget to help manage your finances, a year-end tune-up can help you make sure it’s still current.
  3. Immediately pay down holiday bills and credit cards
    Many people splurge on holiday gifts, parties, and travel in December, but the bills will come due in January. Resolve to pay down those debts quickly to avoid large interest charges on your credit cards. Set a goal to pay off the total amount on one card within a few months, if not sooner. If you or your spouse expects a bonus check from your employer in early 2018, use at least some amount from this check to pay down debt. Finally, start by paying off the credit card with the smallest balance. Even though this card may not have the highest interest rate, paying off the total amount on one card will provide the motivation to keep paying off the others. (Source: Kiplinger)
  4. Build an emergency fund
    Everyone should have at least three to six months of their living expenses set aside in a cash savings account. This number should be higher when you are retired, such as one to three years of spending needs, and should be coordinated with your overall investment mix. In order to accomplish this goal when you are working, set up an automatic draft from your paycheck into a separate savings account. This account can be used for emergency car and household expenses and will help avoid piling up new credit card debt on top of the existing debt from the holidays. (Source: Kiplinger)
  5. Review insurance policies
    Take a look at your coverage for auto, home, liability, etc. to be sure you have enough — and not too much — and that you’re not overpaying. Look at whether you could drop some deductibles to save on premiums or if you have some unnecessary ‘extra’ features in your policy that are adding up. Comparison-shop among insurance companies to see whether switching makes sense. Even if you’ve done this before, it pays to compare periodically, as different companies adjust pricing frequently to meet competition or get more competitive at times in certain markets. We partner with First Group Insurance – contact them today to help you review your insurance policies! (Source: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants)
  6. Leverage technology
    With today’s on-the-go mindset, technology has made banking so much more convenient. With our online banking, you have access to all sorts of services with your account – including automatic bill pay, money management, and transfers. You can also download First Mobile, our mobile app, and check your account from your phone wherever you are. Learn more about our mobile services, including links to download our app.
  7. Review your investment mix
    Are your investments still in line with your goals and risk tolerances? Changes in the values of your stocks, bonds, and other holdings over the past year may have moved the relative weights away from what best meets your needs. For example, if the stock market had a good year, the percentage of your investments in stocks may have drifted upward from what you see as the right proportion of stock market risk. The approach of the new year is a good time to review your mix. A qualified CPA financial advisor can help you determine if it’s time for rebalancing. COMING SOON – First Bank will soon provide wealth management services. Contact us today if you need professional help in reviewing your investments. (Source: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants)
  8. Review your beneficiaries
    Especially if you’ve had a recent family event such as a marriage, birth or adoption of a child, new grandchildren, or a divorce, the approach of the new year is a good opportunity to make sure the beneficiaries you’ve designated in your life insurance, will, bank accounts, and IRAs are aligned with your current situation and wishes. (Source: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants)
  9. Review your retirement
    If you haven’t been contributing to your 401(k) plan at work at a level that gets you the maximum employer match, check on whether there may be a ‘catch up’ opportunity before year-end to avoid leaving money on the table. Similarly, it might make sense to increase your IRA contributions if you haven’t reached the limit for the year in order to take full advantage of this year’s opportunity to put away retirement savings dollars for tax-deferred growth. (Source: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants)
  10. Take advantage of rewards programs
    If you have a checking account with First Bank, you have access to some great savings! Our checking accounts are powered by a rewards program called, BaZing – an online membership program with discounts from local, regional, and national merchants. Head to our Personal Banking tab to learn more, or contact us today!
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