Personal Finance

5 Money Musts for Reaching Your Financial Goals

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When looking at achieving some of your financial goals, there are just some things you must do. The end of the year is a good time to evaluate how you’re doing so far and where you want to head in the future to help you reach your goals. This includes your financial life.

If you haven’t written a list of money musts yet, here are few significant tasks you might want to include.

1. Kick Debt to the Curb (for Good)

If your New Year’s resolutions always include a vow to pay off your high-interest debt but the balances are still hanging around the next Christmas, getting rid of the financial dead weight should be your top priority. The longer you stay in debt, the more money you’ll throw away in interest. Debt can also put a serious stranglehold on your ability to save and achieve your other finance-related goals.

Creating a plan to eliminate your debt once and for all is the first step toward crossing this item off your list. Add up how much you owe and take a look at what you’re paying in interest for each debt. You could start by paying off the ones with the highest interest first to save money or knock out the ones with the smallest balances for a confidence boost. Whichever method you choose, the key is to stick with it and throw every extra dime you can at your debt.

2. Save for the Rainy Days

The occasional emergency is inevitable but something as small as a flat tire can become a big problem if you don’t have cash set aside to cover the unexpected expense. You could put it on a credit card or get a loan if you need to but then you’ll end up having to pay interest. Building up an emergency fund can safeguard you against financial disaster when the storm clouds gather.

How much of an emergency fund you need really depends on your income, expenses and what you need to feel secure. As a general rule, you should have anywhere from three to six months’ worth of expenses saved, but you may decide to save more or less, depending on your situation. If you don’t have anything saved at all, you’ll want to tackle this goal as quickly as possible. Even if you start with only $25 a week, you’ll be moving in the right direction.

3. Fully Fund Your Retirement Dreams

What do you envision when you think about the kind of lifestyle you want when you retire? Are you relaxing on a beach, playing golf or traveling the world? Whatever your retirement looks like, you need to make sure that you have a big enough cushion to be able to live out your dreams. If you haven’t started saving or you’re not saving enough, you can’t afford to waste another second.

When you’re planning your retirement savings strategy, it’s important to research every option available. Ideally, you should be maxing out your employer’s retirement plan to take advantage of the matching contribution. In addition to maxing out your plan at work, you should also look into what other types of investment vehicles are available, such as a traditional or Roth IRA.

4. Max Out the College Fund

Tuition rates are steadily increasing and the number of students taking out loans to pay for their education has reached an all-time high. If you’re worried about your kids being saddled with student loan debt, contributing to their college fund can help ease the burden and potentially earn you some tax benefits in the process.

Setting up a 529 plan is an easy way to sock away money toward future education expenses and qualified withdrawals are always tax-free. At least one 529 plan is offered in all 50 states and you don’t necessarily have to be a resident of the state to enroll in its plan.

When you’re comparing college savings plans, be sure to pay attention to the fees and investment choices to make sure you find the right fit.

5. Give Back

When your financial future is secure, you have an opportunity to help others. Whether you give to your church, make donations to a favorite charity or offer direct help to a needy family, your contribution can potentially have a long-lasting positive impact. Not only is giving to others emotionally rewarding, it can be financially rewarding as well since you may be able to get a tax deduction for your donations. Just make sure to do your research before donating money to charity to ensure your hard-earned cash is going where you want it to go.

Whatever you decide to include on your list, it should reflect where you’re at now and where you want to go. Your list may be longer or shorter but writing down your goals can help you stay focused on tackling your most important financial to-dos.

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