Managing Debt

Americans Urged to Take Control of Finances in 2011

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Developing a financial plan may help consumers save more and accomplish their goals in 2011As the new year approaches, Americans are finalizing their resolutions. Recent reports show more Americans have made resolutions to “have more fun,” and “relax/reduce stress,” which have trumped goals to save more and get finances in order. However, financial professionals are saying Americans don’t have to choose between the two, urging them to create a financial “to-do” list for the year.

Consumers who make clear-cut goals, complete with a mission statement and analysis of their finances, are more likely to accomplish their goals and surpass the boredom of resolutions, according to Reuters. Consumers can begin by writing down a list of financial goals, including saving amounts, charitable contributions and short- or long-term wishes. Analyzing current finances, including income, investments, debt and savings can help Americans set and meet their goals, the news source reports.

Following the financial analysis, consumers should look for areas in which to save money. Shopping for new auto or home insurance and negotating credit card interest rates can help save consumers hundreds to thousands of dollars throughout the year. Some lenders may also cut homeowners a break on their interest if they allow the company to automatically deduct the monthly mortgage payment from their bank account.

Consumers should also make improving their credit score a year-long task. Individuals should obtain and examine their credit reports for accuracy, dispute any errors and explore categories they can afford to improve upon, such as paying down high-interest credit card debt.

Studies show Americans are also failing to adequately plan for retirement. Consumers can improve their nest eggs by contributing the maximum to their retirement accounts, especially if the amount is matched by employers. Creating a budget will also help individuals find areas in which to pare down their spending and contribute more to a retirement plan, an emergency fund and a savings account.

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