Recently, The Wall Street Journal posted a story about six money moves you should make in 2013. These aren’t the typical “increase your 401(k) contribution rate”, but other financial moves that can have a big impact on your finances. The six moves are:
Work Out Your Biggest Savings Goal
Ramp Up Your Investments
Try Homemade Month
Stop The Bleeding
Hold a Two Week Auction
Imagine You’re Dead
For the most part, I agree with much of the advice in the article. I think that for the first one, it is important for people to understand how much they really need for retirement. It’s easy to save too little when you have no idea how much you are going to need. And figuring out a ballpark number for how much you will need does not require an understanding of calculus or a weekend of your time. It should take maybe 15 minutes tops and a calculator. There is no reason why you should not have an idea of your number.
I also agree with ramping up you investments, either in taxable or non-taxable accounts. However, I do disagree with the suggestion that you put the money in the named ETF. Not because I think that the ETF is a bad choice, but because the author lists that you can earn a return of over 50% over seven years with this investment. You should invest more, but make certain you are doing so in a manner that will encourage you to continue investing. If you are scared of the stock market, investing in highly volatile funds is not going to encourage you to keep investing. It will deter you because of the wild swings. Build a diversified portfolio. Be happy with returns of 6-8% per year with index funds. Don’t chase returns because you will most likely get burnt.
Avoiding eating out is also a great idea. Too many people don’t realize how much money goes towards eating out each month. By taking some time on a Sunday, my girlfriend and I are able to grocery shop, make a few meals for the week for both dinner and lunch (lunch is usually leftovers) and still have some food left over for making additional meals. Our grocery budget is not out of control either. We shop for things that are on sale, use coupons and Ibotta for saving money. If you must dine out, at least follow some tips for saving money when eating out.
It is also important to keep tabs on how much technology costs us. I’m talking about cell phones, internet, and cable. You should review your needs annually. By needs, I am talking about how many minutes you actually use or what channels you watch. Knowing this information helps when deciding what to cut or which plan works best for you. At the very least, you should call and negotiate for a lower price. It only takes a few minutes. I used to do this with Comcast, but now Comcast is no longer offering promotions to existing customers.
I am also a fan of de-cluttering the house. Selling things on ebay or Craisglist, or even donating to the local thrift store is good for a few reasons. First, it allows you to avoid a storage unit or buying a bigger house to keep all of the things you don’t need or never use in the first place. It is also beneficial because as you go through all of your things, a light will hopefully go off in your head where you question why you bought all of these things in the first place and how much more money you could have if you never bought all of it in the first place. When you have this “ah-ha” moment, internalize it and remember it next time you are at the mall. When you don’t spend the money, transfer it to a savings account or investment account. It will be as if you did buy the item because the money will be gone from your checking account, but you will have your money working for you.
Finally, it is important to make sure you have a will as well as disability insurance. Having a will is important so that your loved ones can deal more with the fact that they lost you as opposed to dealing with attorneys and the court over who gets what and why.
Most people overlook disability insurance, but if you looked at the statistics, you are more likely to become disabled than pass away during your working years. Hopefully and disability you suffer is temporary and you have enough in savings to cover you while you are out of work. However, what happens if it is permanent or you can no longer work? Then what? It’s best to address this now rather than after the fact.
Overall, I think this is a good list for things that many people don’t think of that could put them in a better financial state. I encourage you to tackle at least a few of these in the new year to get your finances healthier.
Readers, what do you think about this list? Is there anything you would add?