Right about now, we New Englanders take every opportunity to open windows and let in fresh air, while sweeping and scrubbing away the blahs of being cooped up indoors. But why should spring cleaning end on the doorstep? This is a great time to freshen up your finances, too. Consider these seven ways to improve your financial well-being in 2017:
- Do something meaningful for the community. See if you can’t make a difference in some way, big or small. Organize a roadside cleanup drive. Volunteer at the library. Run for public office. Write a letter to the editor. Donate your tax refund to a nonprofit you admire. Believe it or not, giving to others will make you feel wealthier.
- If your 401(k) has an employer match, don’t leave money on the table. Be sure to contribute enough this year to qualify for maximum matching funds. To encourage you to save more for retirement, your employer is willing to give you free money—a deal that can’t be beat!
- No 401(k)? Open an IRA. Do you work for yourself, or for a company without a retirement plan? You can get big tax breaks from opening an IRA here at Winslow Community FCU or at a bank, mutual fund company, insurance firm, or brokerage. To find the IRA that’s right for you, search “Types of Retirement Plans” at irs.gov.
- Pay off your highest-rate credit card. For a real feeling of satisfaction, pay off that pesky balance that costs you lots of interest. To zero it out by year-end, divide the total by 8 and pay that amount every month. Too big a bite? Move the debt to another card with a temporary 0% interest rate and pay it off before that deal expires. (Avoid cards with a high balance transfer fee, though.)
- Start a savings account. Call it a holiday fund. Call it getaway money. Call it anything—at Winslow Community FCU, you can give a supplemental savings account any name you like. For best results, follow three steps: 1. Set a specific goal and timeline. 2. Work out how much to save each pay period to reach your goal. 3. Arrange automatic transfers into savings from your checking account, so you never miss the money.
- Help an adult child become financially free. Whether it’s a boomerang kid living in the basement or a moved-out millennial who still wants subsidies, parents need to agree on a plan to reduce their support gradually over a specific time frame. Explain that you want to help the young person gain economic independence while safeguarding your own future financial security. For help with this conversation, see “The Right Way to Tell Your Adult Child They’re Cut Off” (http://time.com/money/4547621/adult-children-finances/)
- Declutter your house, room by room. Take your time, but be relentless. You might post photos of gently-used-but-still-good discards on Facebook (search Facebook for “garage sale” groups) to make a little money. Which you can then stash away in #5, perhaps?
While you’re in a spring cleaning state of mind, you may think of other ways to simplify your financial life and sweep away obstacles to your goals. If so, think of us. At Winslow Community FCU, we’d be happy to help you get a fresh start on 2017.