No matter which phase of life you’re currently in, how much money you presently earn or what level of assets you’ve accumulated so far, you can likely benefit from improving some aspect of your personal finances.
Here are six key money rules to follow that will take your finances to the next level.
PRACTICE TAX EFFICIENCY
There’s an old saying: “It’s not about what you make, it’s about what you keep.” In other words, your gross income is one thing, but it’s net income that really matters — not to mention how you spend your income. Your net income is most important because it reflects your take-home pay after Uncle Sam takes his cut of your salary, wages or self-employment earnings.
By keeping a keen eye on your taxes, you’ll have more cash available to build wealth. Slash your tax bill by contributing to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, funding a health savings account or claiming tax deductions and tax credits for which you qualify.
Even though it’s smart to avoid debt whenever possible, that guidance isn’t always feasible. Most Americans will borrow money at some point in their lives. You may need a mortgage to buy a home, a line of credit to start a business or a student loan to help fund a college education.
The key is to borrow wisely. When it comes to loans, always shop around for the best deals available. Keep your credit in tip-top shape so you can qualify for the most attractive loan rates and terms. Limit borrowing to only what you truly need. And finally, always have a written plan for how you will repay your debts.
Too many of us shy away from negotiating, and that failure to negotiate can mean a lifetime of squandered money. You can (and should) negotiate everything from your monthly cable bill and the interest rates on your credit cards to your annual salary and the financial perks offered by an employer. Get into the habit of routinely negotiating and you’ll save more money — and earn more money, too.
COMMIT TO SAVING MONEY CONSISTENTLY
Speaking of saving money, anyone striving to take his or her finances up a notch should make a commitment to being a disciplined saver. If you aren’t consistently putting away at least 20 percent of your take-home salary, start working toward that goal.
You can begin by banking your next pay raise or a portion of it. Another strategy is to determine a fixed dollar amount that you can set aside for savings each month, and then begin saving that money without fail. If you’re already saving money, gradually increase your percentage of savings to continually boost your financial well-being.
PROTECT YOUR FINANCES WITH INSURANCE
Accidents, injuries, illness or various kinds of disasters all represent threats to your personal and financial health. Unfortunately, such setbacks can strike any of us. But you can guard against these occurrences and other risks — like the driver who rear-ends your vehicle or the storm that damages your home — by insuring yourself.
If you protect your family, property and assets with insurance, it’s far less likely that a natural or man-made disaster will wipe out your savings or leave you financially vulnerable. So evaluate your current needs and make sure you have adequate health insurance, car insurance, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, as well as life insurance and disability protection.
Procrastination can cost you financially in ways small and large. Got an upcoming trip planned next season? Waiting to buy your plane ticket may mean shelling out big bucks for a more expensive last-minute airfare. Even worse, waiting to save money for retirement can result in a huge economic penalty.
People who procrastinate about building long-term savings don’t get the benefit of compounded interest over time. So procrastinating about retirement planning could mean amassing a retirement nest egg that’s tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars smaller than it would have been had you started saving earlier.
Too many of us shy away from negotiating, and that failure to negotiate can mean a lifetime of squandered money.