The new year is just days old which means that millions of Americans have already vowed to improve their lives in 2016.
Uppermost on the minds of many individuals is this goal: becoming more financially secure. If you would like to improve your own dollars and cents, here are a few great ways to start fresh.
Increase your retirement savings.
According to a report by The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, about half of working-age households are not saving enough to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living in retirement. The center recommends that middle-class and high-income families respectively save 15% and 16% of their incomeopens PDF file for their retirement. Individuals who do this, beginning in their 30s, should be able to replace their preretirement income after Social Security is taken into consideration.
If you can’t stash away that much, consider increasing your savings rate by one percentage point a year until you reach your target.
Review your assets.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but many investors fail to review their assets on even an annual basis.
When you review your investments, check to see that they still make sense for you. For instance, if you have always invested aggressively in stocks, this strategy may not make sense if you are nearing retirement.
As you take a fresh look at your investments, keep in mind what they are costing you. There is a wide range, for instance, in costs among various mutual fund families. Higher-cost funds can significantly erode your long-term returns.
You can compare fees and expenses of these investments via FINRA’s Mutual Fund Expense Analyzer.
Review your debt.
If you have outstanding balances on several credit cards, consider prioritizing them in order of highest to lowest interest rates when making payments.
While you are reviewing your debt, get copies of your credit report. There is no excuse for overlooking this simple task which costs you nothing. Simply head to AnnualCreditReport.com to obtain your free credit report, as required by federal law, from each of the three credit reporting agencies.
Review your insurance coverage.
In January, it’s usually too late to change your employer health care insurance, but you can vow to explore all your medical insurance options long before the 2016 fall deadlines of many workplace insurance plans. Employees often make rushed decisions at the end of the year that can lead to costly mistakes.
You should also take another look at your life insurance coverage. In most cases, less expensive, term life insurance is sufficient to cover the lives of parents. Term life insurance is named for the policy’s length of coverage, which usually lasts for a fixed period from one to 20 years or up to a specified age.
If the insured individual dies, you can use term insurance for such things as replacing the deceased’s income, paying the mortgage, covering college tuition and other expenses.
If you have life insurance, make sure to check that the beneficiaries are up-to-date. You should also check the beneficiaries on all your retirement plans.
Focus on your physical health.
Your physical health might not seem related to your financial health, but don’t be so sure. A study from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that there is a link to physical health and retirement savings.
After controlling for differences in initial health, demographics and job type, the researchers concluded that retirement contribution patterns and health improvements are highly correlated.
“Those who save for the future by contributing to a 401(k) improved abnormal health test results and poor health behaviors approximately 27 percent more than non-contributors,” the study concluded.