If you’re ready to improve your economic situation in 2011, here are my recommendations for the Top 10 financial New Year’s resolutions that will help you in the coming year:
1. Eliminate credit card debt.
Tired of being in debt and living paycheck to paycheck? Then it’s time to knock out those credit card bills once and for all. I paid off $100,000 in credit card debt in just three years, so it is possible to become debt-free. For do-it-yourselfers who want debt elimination tips, read my New York Times bestseller, Zero Debt, free of charge online. For those who want professional help getting out of debt, consult the National Foundation for Debt Management (www.NFDM.org), a reputable non-profit agency.
2. Improve your credit rating.
Having poor credit will hurt you in many ways. You’ll pay more for loans, credit, and insurance. Plus, bad credit could prevent you from renting an apartment or getting a job. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com for a free copy of your credit reports. Check your credit scores too. If you haven’t seen your credit scores lately, read this article on how to get your FICO credit score free.
3. Slowly set aside 3 months’ savings.
If an emergency happens – from a job loss to a car breakdown – your savings cushion will protect you from resorting to credit cards. Get free wealth-building tips and pointers on how to save more at www.AmericaSaves.org.
4. Prepare your taxes early.
Get any tax form you need from the IRS at www.IRS.gov and file your taxes ASAP. You’ll avoid the procrastination and stress, as well as the hassles and long lines, at the Post Office on April 15th. Early filers also get faster refunds.
5. Make a financial plan.
Start writing out your financial goals and what it will take to achieve them. Get help from the Financial Planning Association at www.FPAnet.org.
6. Create or update your will.
Nobody likes to think about his or her own death. But you can’t ignore reality. Look at the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 or the unfortunate, 150,000+ victims killed by the Tsunami that spread across Asia and Africa. Tomorrow isn’t promised. For a low-cost will, visit www.buildawill.com or www.legalzoom.com.
7. Fund a retirement plan.
If you have a 401(k) or 403(b) plan at work, start contributing, or increase your contribution. Learn all about 401(k) plans at www.401k.org. No 401(k) plan or you’re not eligible for it? Then open an Individual Retirement Account.
8. Ask for a raise.
List the ways you’ve contributed to your company’s prosperity or your department’s well being, and approach your boss for a raise. The Wall Street Journal’s Careers section has tips for getting a pay hike at www.wsj.com. If you work for yourself, give yourself a raise by raising your prices or offering higher-end products and services.
9. Get proper insurance.
Get life insurance worth 5 to 10 times your salary, and adequate coverage for your valuables and property – home, car, etc. – too. If something goes wrong, you and your family will be so glad you did. Find quotes at www.insure.com.
10. Improve your financial record-keeping.
Get your paperwork in order, and keep good records all year round. This will save money in the long run and reduce your aggravation come tax time. For help, try the free online budgeting and record-keeping tools at www.mint.com.
Here’s wishing you a happy and financially prosperous New Year!