While many Americans focus on shrinking their waistlines for the start of the New Year, some money experts say it’s also a perfect time to get your finances in order.
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According to a 2017 GoBankingRates survey, more than half of Americans (57%) have less than $1,000 in their savings account. And, while that number is an improvement from 2016, when 69% of Americans reported having that amount, there is still a lot more work to do in 2018.
Peter J. D’Arruba, president of the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants and personal investment advisor, told FOX Business, the top mistake he sees people make is not having “a true retirement plan.”
“Millions of Americans are confused about what the true ingredients of a successful retirement plan are,” D’Arruba says. “I will not allow anyone in my office to define a financial plan or a retirement plan unless a proper percentage of assets in that plan are devoted to a lifetime income that cannot be outlived. After all, what good is a plan that only lasts 20 years into retirement before all the money is extinguished?”
Chris Whitlow, CEO of financial wellness benefits provider, Edukate, says the top money faux pas he sees is not having an emergency fund.
“60% of Americans don’t have enough money in savings to cover an unexpected $500 expense. Expect the unexpected and budget for it. A simple way to achieve this is to set up an automatic withdrawal of $10 per week. Over the course of a year, you’ll save $520 and not become part of that statistic,” Whitlow says.
Here’s a list of the top 8 money mistakes to avoid in 2018, according to Edukate.
1. Not having an emergency fund Set up an automatic withdrawal every paycheck to start building up your emergency fund.
2. Not maxing out your retirement plans Once your debts are cleared and your emergency fund is full, what’s next? There’s no arguing the 401(k) is a great way to fund your long term savings, especially if you aren’t one of the lucky people to have a pension. Consider the tax advantages of maxing out both traditional and Roth 401(k)/403(b) contributions before you start saving elsewhere.
3. Not utilizing all of the benefits your employer offers Only about 40% of employees say they fully understand the benefits at their job. Talk to your work’s HR team or check out your benefits portal to find out what your employer offers—and put them to use.
4. Being oversubscribed You have Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, cable/satellite TV, satellite radio, a couple magazines, a beauty box subscription and a gym membership. Do you know what it all costs? There are likely cheaper alternatives and things you really can live without.
5. Not using technology to manage your finances Technology continues to find ways to help save and plan for the future. For starters, check out smarthome tools like Nest or Ecobee to save money on heating/cooling bills.
6. Waiting too long to invest Many baby boomers say their greatest investment regret was not starting sooner. In a recent survey, many young Gen Z and millennial respondents said they didn’t plan to start investing until the age of 28. Whitlow says the best time to start investing in your financial future is today, not later.
7. Not understanding the true cost of big purchases With interest rates still at record lows, it may be tempting to make a big purchase like a car or home. Make sure you understand the true cost of ownership and factor in routine maintenance, insurance, and unexpected repairs before deciding if you can afford it.
8. Being afraid to ask for discounts Most of your monthly bills can be renegotiated at a lower rate. Even big companies like your cell phone and cable providers, car insurance, and delivery services can be negotiated with—you just have to ask.