How To Get Your Finances in Shape in 12 Months

Shot of a young man going over his finances at home.
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Whether you’re buried in credit card debt, haven’t started saving for retirement or don’t currently have an emergency fund, you’re committed to turning things around.

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Of course, knowing where to start isn’t always easy — especially if you’re planning to work toward several financial goals.

When it comes to which goals to set for the year, you’ll of course need to consider your unique situation. However, Mark Henry, founder and owner of Alloy Wealth Management, a wealth management firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina, shared six common financial objectives to get you started.

1. Save More Money

No matter how much money you earn, Henry said finding ways to save more money by the end of the year should be your top priority.

“If you make $3,000 a month, and can find a way to save 10% of your income a month for ten years, eventually, even without a raise, you will have one year’s salary in the bank,” he said. “During that time, with compounding interest, you will have five years’ worth of your salary saved.”

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2. Focus On Retirement Savings

When facing competing savings priorities — i.e., saving for your children’s college expenses or saving for retirement — Henry advised putting aside money for your own retirement first.

“A good retirement salary is equal to your working salary after taxes and what money you set aside for savings,” he said. “In most cases, people want to do more in retirement because now they have the time to do the things they’ve wanted to do their entire life, and they need more money to sustain a new lifestyle.”

3. Don’t Let Money Control Your Life

It might sound counterintuitive for a financial goal, but Henry said money should enrich your life — not control it.

“Most of us thrive on instant gratification,” he said. “But when it comes to finances, gratification comes when you take control of your life and the power you get when you wake up and realize you have cash in the bank.”

4. Boost Your Emergency Fund

If you don’t currently have an emergency fund — or the one you do you have isn’t large enough — Henry said it’s time to change that.

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“The mistake I see many people making is prioritizing credit card debt over having enough money in their emergency fund,” he said. “Yes, the interest from credit cards is bad, but if you don’t have an emergency fund, you will be forced to use the credit card, creating a revolving door of debt.”

5. Change Your Spending Habits

Having a plan for how you’re going to allocate your money is a must, Henry said. However, he said making meaningful changes to your spending habits won’t happen overnight.

“You can’t wake up tomorrow and be a saver,” he said. “Take time to discover and understand who you are first.”

Getting to the root cause of any spending problems is important he said, as a Band-Aid fix isn’t lasting.

“Like anything in life worthwhile, it’s going to be challenging, but the rewards will be phenomenal,” he said.

6. Pay Your Credit Card Bill in Full Each Month

They often get a bad rap, but Henry said the perks you can get from using credit cards — i.e., cash back and discounts — are great, as long as you pay the balance off each month. If you can’t do that, he said to stop using them.

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“Take the cards and put them in a resealable bag with water and toss it in the freezer,” he said. “Hopefully, this will prevent you from making spontaneous purchases and suffering from buyer’s remorse.”

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About the Author

Jennifer Taylor is a West Coast-based freelance writer with more than a decade of experience writing about anything and everything. Since earning her MBA, personal finance has been her favorite topic, as she’s passionate about writing stories that educate, inform and empower. Specifically, she specializes in budgeting, debt repayment, savings and retirement.
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