Here our top tips for finding value, so your hard-won wealth doesn’t leak out in dribs and drabs. We devote a section to the biggest goal of all — a secure retirement. And because life isn’t all about making money, we include fulfilling ways to give back. Take a look:
Set Specific Goals
You’re more likely to accrue wealth if you have specific goals and a plan to reach them. That means coming up with short-term goals, such as paying off debt, buying a house, and saving for a rainy day or a vacation, as well as long-term goals, which may include funding your retirement and your children’s college education.
Fill the Gaps in Home Insurance
Your home may be your biggest asset, so make sure you have enough insurance to protect it from disasters. Review your policy to see if your dwelling coverage is enough to rebuild. Let your insurance company know about any major improvements that affect the value. Check the amount of coverage for your possessions, and consider buying a rider to cover special items, such as jewelry.
Shield Yourself From Lawsuits
The most important part of your auto insurance policy is the liability coverage, which protects your assets and future earnings if you are liable for injuries and damage as the result of an accident. State liability coverage requirements are usually inadequate. Also make sure you have uninsured-motorist coverage (and underinsured-motorist coverage, in states with inadequate liability limits). That can pay for damage to your car, medical expenses and lost wages for you and your passengers if the at-fault driver does not have insurance. Most families with typical risks should also safeguard their assets and future earnings with an umbrella policy.
Update Your Estate Plan
Pat yourself on the back if you already have a will and other estate-planning documents, including a durable power of attorney (which lets the person you appoint manage your finances and legal affairs) and health care power of attorney (which gives a trusted person the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf if you can’t). Now make sure these documents reflect current circumstances, including the birth of a child, a divorce or a move to a new state.
Shelter Retirement Income
The general post-retirement rule is to draw from taxable accounts first: When you sell investments in a taxable account, you pay tax only on the profit, and if you’ve held the investments for more than a year, the profit is taxed at the long-term capital-gains rate, which tops out at 20%.
Get on Top of Your Spending
You can’t set long-term goals unless you get a handle on where your money goes. Budgeting apps make the task a lot easier. After you monitor your cash flow for several months, you’ll have the tools to hew to your spending limits.
Set It and Forget It
Set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings or brokerage account (or both) each month shortly after payday so that your emergency and retirement funds will fatten up before you have a chance to spend the cash.
Alternatively, see if your employer can divvy your paycheck between two accounts. For the rest of your bills, use automatic bill payments through your bank. Your payment will arrive before the due date, you’ll avoid late fees, and you won’t have to buy stamps and envelopes, either.
Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards
By playing your (credit) cards right, you’ll earn hundreds of dollars annually in cash back or free flights and hotel stays. For travel, choose a card that offers a hefty sign-up bonus. You might also want a card with a return of 3% to 5% in categories you spend the most on, such as groceries or gas.
You can also save money with the perks that many credit cards offer: extended warranties, price matching, coverage for damage and theft of recent purchases, rental car insurance, and travel insurance.
Negotiate for Practically Everything
You know it pays to haggle hard over cars and homes. A lot of other purchases are ripe for negotiation, too. Avoid naming your top price right away. If the seller has a lower figure in mind than you do, you won’t save as much as you could have. Instead, ask the seller how much he could come down in price.
Use Home Equity Strategically
Thanks to rising home values since the Great Recession, you may be well positioned to borrow against the equity in your home, which can help finance renovations or consolidate other, higher-rate debts. HELOCs often come with variable rates, so your payments will increase as interest rates rise. Some lenders allow you to lock in a fixed rate on all or a portion of your HELOC balance, which may be wise if you expect to spend a few years or more paying off the debt. A fixed-rate loan may be a good option if you have a one-time expense.
After graduating year 12, Dan began his banking and finance career at Westpac Banking Corporation in Brisbane in 1988. He worked for the bank for seven years, excelling in his career and working his way up to management.