If your money needs a complete overhaul, stop complaining about the situation and take control of your money.
You might not know everything there is to know about personal finances, but this doesn’t mean you have to accept your current situation. Bringing your finances in line with your goals is much easier than you might think. Your money isn’t going to improve overnight, but if you take the first step, everything else will fall into place.
A brighter financial future can be yours in one lunch hour. Here are 15 things you can do today to improve your money situation:
1. Set an Appointment with a Financial Planner
Whether you need to create a retirement plan or purchase life insurance, schedule an appointment with a financial planner and start preparing for the future. From giving advice on different investment strategies to helping you meet your long-term financial goals, a financial planner provides guidance for all aspects of your financial life. The XYPlanning Network is a listing of fee-only certified financial planners specifically for Generation X and Y.
2. Identify Your Financial Goals
To identify your goals ask yourself, “What do you hope to accomplish financially in the next six months, 12 months or five years?” Before you can move forward and improve your personal finances, you have to know what you're working towards. In You Only Live Once, I wrote about the importance of having a vision for life and then setting financial goals that align with that vision. Write down all your financial goals, and then brainstorm ways to achieve these goals.
3. Open an Individual Retirement Account
Your retirement account isn’t going to grow itself. Speak with your employer to see if you're eligible to enroll in the company’s 401(k) plan, or call your bank and set up an appointment to speak with a banker to discuss your individual retirement account options.
4. Open a Money Market Account or a Certificate of Deposit
Both types of savings instruments offer a higher interest rate than regular savings accounts. If you're trying to grow your money faster or reach financial goals sooner, you need an account offering the maximum return. Transfer some of your money from a basic savings or checking account into a higher earning account. You can set up either of these accounts through a bank or credit union website in no time. Find a credit union near you
5. Sign up for Online Bill Pay
Automating your bills is one of the best ways to ensure you never miss a payment. Set up bill pay through your bank's website. Select the bills you want to automate, and then decide the payment amounts and payment dates. Online Bill Pay through your primary financial institution has come a long way. In many instances, you can view your actual bill statements and set payments right from online banking.
6. Shop for a Life Insurance Policy
Even if you're single with no kids, you still need a life insurance policy. This policy provides funds to cover your funeral and burial, plus the death benefit can pay off any remaining debt. Check with your employer on how much life insurance coverage you have available. And consider a separate life insurance policy not tied to your job. Read our 6 ways to buy life insurance article here.
7. Read a Personal Finance Blog
Educating yourself on money topics can also improve your personal finances. If you don't know much about money, read financial blogs and money-related articles written by people who know a lot about the subject. You’ll learn tips on saving, budgeting, credit management, paying off debt, etc. I recommend checking out Rockstar Finance for a list of best blogs. On a side note, subscribe to our newsletter for blog post highlights and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
8. Opt-in to Electronic or Online Statements
Make it easier for yourself and opt-in for electronic and online statements and use an email inbox strategy. Receiving your statements online makes it easier to check your statements on the go and review them for accuracy. In some cases, you may save a few dollars a month, as some companies have begun charging for mailing paper statements.
9. Negotiate a Lower Credit Card Rate
Get on the phone and call one of your credit card companies and ask if you can get a loyalty rate discount. Ask if there are any special promotions available to reduce your rate. Find out if there are any balance transfer offers too. Are you drowning in credit card debt? Consider a debt consolidation loan.
10. Make Money with Your Side Hustle
When I was transitioning from a job, I took advantage of every free moment I had during the day. On most days, I was able to knock out an article in an hour. Likewise, if you have a side hustle — whether it's writing or selling items online — spend a portion of your lunch break making money. There are many ways you can earn extra money through a side hustle. Discover a side hustle right for you here.
11. Work on Your Resume
If your job sucks and it's time for something new, work on your resume during your lunch break. You can also use this time to build or improve your LinkedIn profile or search for new job opportunities. Working on your resume can even lead to getting your long deserved pay raise.
12. Cancel an Unnecessary Service
Getting rid of a home or personal services is another way to save money. Find ways to lower your expenses. Take a sheet of paper and write down all your service providers in one column. Then, call each provider one-by-one and ask about lower plans that can save you money. Start with your cell phone provider and follow that up with a call to your cable provider. Adjust your service plans, ask about special discounts, or find an alternative service provider. For example, a call to an auto insurance company could save you a few dollars in premium payments.
13. Order Your Credit Report
Some people never order their credit reports. However, monitoring your personal history is how you protect yourself against identity theft and identify errors on your credit report. Credit report errors can damage your credit score and make it harder to buy a house or car. You can request your credit report in minutes from AnnualCreditReport.com. Get your free credit score today too.
14. Sell an Item Online
Selling items you don't need put extra cash in your pocket — money you can use to pay off debt or increase your emergency fund. Whether you’re listing items on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, or another online marketplace, it only takes a couple of minutes to write a description and set your price. Selling also has an added benefit of decluttering your home.
15. Determine Your Net Worth
This is powerful. Simply make a list of all your assets minus your liabilities. See where your net worth stands. Who knows, you may have enough to retire already?! For retirement, you want to be able to cover your expenses via a passive income source. If your expenses are $40,000 per year, you should aim for $1 million in investments. Your safe withdrawal rate is 4%. It may be motivating!
Bottom Line: If you don’t put forth the effort, your personal finances may never improve. You might not have a lot of free time to spend educating yourself. But if you have at least 15 minutes a day during your lunch break, this is can be more than enough time to improve your financial situation.