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Posted July 18, 2018

Being financially healthy doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort, but when you think of everything you need and want to do, it’s easy to be discouraged. Use these tips to break down top financial tasks/to-dos into monthly tasks.

August 2018

Evaluate your spending patterns. You need to know where you are before you can begin to make changes. Track your spending for the month of August to see where your money is going. Paper and pen works, or use an online financial management tool like myFinance to track and categorize your expenses. At the end of the month, take a look at the results.

September 2018

Build your budget. Now that you have an idea where you’re currently spending, it’s time to build a plan that reflects where you want to go. We recommend a 50/20/30 approach to spending.

  • 50% of your expenses should go towards the essentials like housing, food, transportation, and utilities.
  • 20% (or more) should go to financial priorities like paying down debt, retirement savings, emergency savings, etc.
  • 30% (or less) should go to lifestyle choices – expenses that are personal, voluntary, and fun.

This is just a goal. Feel free to modify your percentages to meet your goals. Additionally, it may take time before you can get to this goal.

October 2018

Find extra money. Now that you have a budget, it might be time to look for ways to free up more funds for your financial priorities like paying down debt, saving for an emergency, or saving for retirement.  When it comes to finding extra money, you have two options: increase income or cut expenses.

Increasing income could include asking for a promotion or raise, taking on a second job, selling things, or turning a hobby into extra income.

Cutting expenses include both big impact and low impact changes:

  • Big impact changes include moving to save money or refinancing your mortgage, getting a lower cost vehicle, and reviewing insurance policies.
  • Low impact changes by themselves may not result in a lot of extra money, but they add up over time. Examples include bringing lunch, using the library, finding coupons/deals, cancelling subscriptions, going generic, etc.
November 2018

Protect yourself from identity theft. Identity theft affected about 16.7 million people in the United States in 2017 and is currently the fastest growing crime in the country.

  • When a thief steals your wallet, they aren’t looking for cash anymore. Leave important information out of your purse or wallet, like a Social Security card, multiple credit cards, and bank information. Check your wallet for important things and leave it out if you can.
  • Complete erase data from old computers or phones. If you are disposing or selling an old device and it still has personal information on in it, you are putting yourself at risk. To erase data, use a wiping or erasing utility program, which overwrites the entire hard drive.
  • Be smart about what you share on social media. Leave personal details, like your address, phone number, and birthday off your social profiles. Review your privacy settings and review your followers or friends to make sure you’re not accepting scammers.
December 2018

Take time to enjoy the holidays. Use December as a month to recharge with family while still following your spending and saving plan.

Find opportunities for low-cost or free activities to do with family while still celebrating the holidays. Some examples include walking around your neighborhood to look at lights, having a holiday movie night at home, or baking together.

January 2019

Evaluate your debt. The New Year brings new motivation to reach your goals. Use this to tackle your debt.

The first step is to figure out how much debt you actually have. Using the Know What You Owe worksheet, gather up your most recent credit card and loan statements and fill out the information. Include your current balance, interest rate, minimum monthly payment, and due date.

February 2019

Create your get out of debt plan. To create your plan, you first need to know how much money you can dedicate each month to paying down debt. This amount should include your minimum monthly payments and any additional amount you can find in your budget. When it comes to figuring out your plan, you have a few options:

Refinance – refinancing your debt involves replacing a loan/credit card with another loan or credit card that has a lower interest rate or a lower payment.

Consolidate – consolidating your debt involves combining your balances into one larger loan with possibly a lower interest rate, lower monthly payment, or a faster payoff time.

Stack – the Stack method (may also be called the Roll-Up method) involves paying off your debt in order of interest rate (highest to lowest). You make the minimum payments on all your debts and put any extra money towards the debt with the highest interest rate until it is paid off. Once it’s paid off, that money goes towards the debt with the next highest interest rate. This continues until you have paid off all your debt.

Snowball – the Snowball method involves paying off your debt in order of balance (lowest to highest). You make the minimum payments on all your debts and put any extra money towards the debt with the lowest balance until it is paid off. Once it’s paid off, that money goes towards the debt with the next lowest balance. This continues until you have paid off all your debt.

March 2019

Understand your credit score. While the most popular and well-known credit scoring model is your FICO score, it’s important to know that not only are there multiple credit scoring companies and models, but that your score might be different depending on the model and the lender.

In general, there are five main factors that influence your credit score:

  1. Payment History (35%) – always make your payments on time. The more severe, recent, and frequent the late payment, the greater the impact on your score.
  2. Amount Owed (30%) – looks at the total amount you owe across all accounts, the number of accounts with balances, the utilization rate on revolving accounts (amount borrowed compared to amount available), and more.
  3. Length of Credit History (15%) – looks at how long you’ve been using credit, the average age of your accounts, and the age of specific account types.
  4. New Credit (10%) – looks at the number of new accounts, when you last opened an account, and recent requests for credit.
  5. Types of Credit (10%) – looks at what types of credit you have such as installment, revolving, retail, and mortgages.
April 2019

Understand mortgage options. When you’re looking to buy a home or refinance, it’s important to consider different types of mortgages to make sure you’re getting the best loan for you.

  • A fixed-rate mortgage is a mortgage with an interest rate that stays the same for the entire term of the loan. Monthly mortgage payments (principal and interest) remain the same for the life of your loan. One of the biggest advantages to a fixed-rate loan is that your monthly payment stays the same regardless of what happens to interest rates.
  • An adjustable-rate mortgage is a loan type that offers a lower initial interest rate than most fixed-rate loans. The tradeoff is that the interest rate can change periodically and the monthly payment will go up or down accordingly. ARMs can be a good option when mortgage rates are rising and when you don’t plan to stay in your home for longer than the initial fixed-rate term.
May 2019

Create an emergency savings. An emergency savings is usually defined as 3-6 months of living expenses for you and your family in the case of an unforeseen situation. This includes situations like medical emergencies, car repairs, or a natural disaster.

Further prepare yourself by having your financial institution’s app downloaded to your phone. You can check account balances, set travel alerts if evacuation is necessary, and cancel lost or stolen debit cards.

June 2019

Get automated. It’s summer time and the livin’ is easy. Make your financial life easy too by setting up automatic payments and transfers.

It’s easy to do from A+ Online Banking and many companies allow you to set up automatic drafts from your account to pay your bills. Enjoy summer without worrying about late fees.

July 2019

Prepare for the unexpected. Do you have a will? Are your beneficiaries correct? What about a living will/health care power of attorney? When it comes to the unexpected, you want to be as prepared as possible.

  • will communicates your wishes with regards to your belongings, finances, and children.
  • If you’ve gotten married or divorced, had children, or a life-changing event, make sure you review your beneficiaries on your investment and insurance policies.
  • Finally, a living well/health care power of attorney communicates what you want to happen should you be unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
August 2019

Review your insurance coverage. If something were to happen, are you adequately covered? This includes auto insurance, home insurance, life insurance, and health insurance. Gather your insurance policies and review what you’re paying for and what you have. Do you need everything you have or are you paying for things you don’t need?

September 2019

Decrease spending in your household. Learn simple ways to cut back on costs in your household and add more money to your pockets.

  • Meatless Monday, a campaign created to show people how to skip meat one night a week, may be able to help you save on your grocery budget. Think of your favorite meal you make at home – maybe pizza, tacos, or a burger – and look up recipes to make it vegetarian.
  • Really consider what subscriptions or packages you’re still paying for, like cable or a magazine, but not using on a regular basis. It doesn’t look like a lot of money up front, but the amounts can add up over a period of time.
  • Cut back on water usage. Take shorter showers, turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth, and use a dishwasher instead of doing dishes by hand.
 October 2019

Have an emergency game plan. On top of your emergency savings, it’s a good idea to establish an emergency plan with your family.

  • Make sure you will have access to important documents by uploading copies to a thumb drive stored in your emergency kit or saved to a virtual cloud. Documents you may need include birth certificates, Social Security cards, insurance policies, medical records, and financial account records.
  • Depending on the situation, you and your family will have to decide if it would be safer to shelter in place or head to a mass care shelter. Create a household communication plan, have alternate routes for leaving your residence, and identify alternate means of transportation. Be sure to include your pets in your shelter and evacuation plan too.
  • Build an emergency supply kit that can last you and your family at least 72 hours. Make sure the kit is in an easy to carry container and easily accessible in case evacuation is necessary. It’s also a good idea to build pets their own emergency supply kit to keep near/in yours with items like pet food, water bowls, extra collar/leash, and toys to keep them occupied.

Further prepare yourself by having your financial institution’s app downloaded to your phone. You can check account balances, set travel alerts if evacuation is necessary, and cancel lost or stolen debit cards.

November 2019

Review your retirement plan and investments. Financial health also means being prepared for the future. Take time this month to review how much you have in your retirement accounts and how your money is being invested.

  • Could you save more?
  • Do you need a different kind of account?
  • Are your investments performing well?
  • Not sure?

Set up a meeting with a financial advisor – many of them offer consultations for free.

December 2019 

Pull your credit. The majority of adults in America haven’t pulled their credit report in the past twelve months. Reviewing your credit report at least annually can help you catch identity theft and ensure accuracy of information.

Through the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are allowed to get a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus annually through annualcreditreport.com. Review the information on each bureau’s report to ensure your personal information is correct and your borrowing history is reported accurately.