The other day I was contacted by Evan Lips, a reporter from the Lowell Sun who was doing a timely article on financial planning tips for the new year.
He had spoken to other financial planners and investment representatives and he had a wide range of opinions provided by them. These included ways to manage credit to savings to kinds of investments to use for a retirement account.
Because everyone is at a different place in his or her life, some of these tips may not really help now. For instance, how you take money out of retirement accounts when retired is a tip that is less important to someone recently graduated looking to pay off student loan debt.
But there is something common that really can help anyone of any age.
Number One Tip for 2011 and Beyond
So my Number One tip for any consumer of any age: Control What You Can and Leave the Rest.
What do I mean?
Consumers are usually their own worst enemy. Too distracted by daily affairs, it’s easy to become overly focused on the news of the moment. And this can lead to an emotional reaction that can otherwise sabotage long-term financial health.
Things You Can Control
1. Investors have control over certain things: Their emotions (and reactions to the crisis of the day), investment expenses, asset allocation and amounts they save.
2. Investing is long-term but the financial media is fixed on short-term crises of the moment. Be mindful of that and try to tune out the noise.
3. Your mom was right: Live beneath your means and you’ll have extra cash to save; build up your emergency reserves (minimum 3 months of fixed expenses for married couples working; 6 months for couples with one-earner and nearer 12 months for someone with variable income).
4. Pay yourself first. Make it automatic. Have a portion of your paycheck directly sent to a high-yielding savings account.
5. You can lower your investing expenses and improve your diversification by using Exchange Traded Funds. ETFs are investments that can trade like stocks but represent a broad basket of investments. (Sort of like an index mutual fund but with even less expense). If you have less than $100,000 to invest and are looking for efficient core holding for global stock diversification, consider something like the OneFund® ETF from US One at www.usone.com (ticker symbol: ONEF) which is composed of 5 other ETFs from Vanguard and costs less than 0.35% per year while providing 95% exposure to 5,000 large, small and medium-sized companies throughout the world.
6. Develop good money habits: Reconsider that fancy coffee or fast-food lunch and pocket the savings for a more meaningful goal (i.e. vacation, paying off debt, down payment for a house).
7. Pay off your debt by snowballing payments. This technique will help you see progress toward paying off debts. Start with the ones with the lowest balances and pay above the minimum. Then when this debt is paid in full apply the amount you were paying toward the next debt. Eventually, like a snowball rolling down hill, you’ll be applying all these payments in large lumps toward the highest balance debt. And this will help accelerate paying the debts off and lower your interest expenses. Then when everything is paid off you can direct this toward your emergency reserves or investing goals.
8. Position yourself to qualify for more student financial aid: Skip the allowance and put your kid to work. See my post on this here.
Want Some Low-Cost Globally Efficient Ways to Invest?
What is an ETF? Go to http://moneylinkpro.wordpress.com/?s=exchange+traded+fund or http://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/etf.asp