By Eric Easter, Urban News Service
Savings, bills, plans and budgets. These things rarely appear on Yuletide shopping lists. Yet the days and weeks after Christmas and into the New Year often yield a frightening wake-up call.
For many people, getting their finances in order is second only to losing weight among their New Year’s resolutions. But as with dropping those pounds, somehow watching those dollars and cents rarely happens.
Fortunately, experts say, it’s never too late to start improving your financial health. This is as much about changing the way you think about money as adjusting your saving or spending habits.
Urban News Service asked leading authorities Ben Carter and Guy-Max Delphin how readers can dedicate 2016 to bolstering their personal finances.
Ben Carter is the host and producer of Manage Your Damn Money, a YouTube series designed to help millennials make personal economics a part of their culture. Here is what he advises:
- Budget Your Time First
Consider places where you’ve been wasteful with your time, energy and resources, not just your money. Often, life can overtake us with things we’re not obligated to deal with, pay for or spend time on. Ultimately, in one way or another, that costs you money. Take the time to consider what mundane tasks might be avoidable and how you might be able to make better use of your valuable time.
- Audit Your Lifestyle
How we live determines how much we spend. So, how much does your daily lifestyle contribute to your financial health? Do you really need cable TV? Has eating out become a daily occurrence? Do you really need to go to brunch every Sunday? Do you have more invested in shoes than stock? One of the easiest ways to keep money in your pockets is to stop finding ways for it to leave in the first place.
- Go Automated
Three words: automatic savings plan. One of the most effective ways to save (and invest) money is by opening an account and setting automatic debits to put money away in a separate savings (or investment) account you don’t look at often. The day after payday, a portion of your automatic deposit should be headed to this separate account to ensure consistency and saving of the largest percentage of your income possible. This trains you to get comfortable with living on only a portion of your income and makes saving a task you don’t have to think about.
- Learn More/Read More
It sounds like a no-brainer, but finance confuses some people so much that even reading about it feels like a chore. Commit to learning something more about how to make your money grow. The true key to building wealth is creating multiple streams of income. Consider committing to finding new ways to put your money to work so it can be fruitful and multiply.
Popular writers about money — such as Robert Kiyosaki, Michelle Singletary and Napoleon Hill — are popular because their strategies are sound. Reading gives you the opportunity to see your life, your goals and your finances through an alternative lens. Apply the strategies and shifts in thinking that align with your perspective and are likely to have a positive impact on your pockets.
- Celebrate Small Victories
Take a weekend to get all your online accounts and account statements in one place and take a look at your victories — money you’ve earned, saved and invested, or goals you’ve met in the past year.
If you’ve made contributions to your 401(k) at work, celebrate! If you were able to pay off that nagging debt, celebrate! If you were able to save $750 for that trip you really wanted to go on, celebrate! Looking at the big picture can be overwhelming and sometimes prevent you from recognizing small steps you’ve made toward your goals.
- Add Your Financial Goals to Your Regular “To-Do List”
Many people put these things on separate lists. Write your financial goals down and put them on your list of things to do every day as a reminder of what you’re working toward.
Guy-Max Delphin is the CEO and president of Delphin Investments, a hedge fund management company based in New York that focuses on balanced investment strategies. Here are his words of financial wisdom:
- Have a Money “Vision”
If you’re a small investor, be a contrarian. It can be hard not to follow the crowd around the water cooler, especially in good times. But if everybody is talking about a stock, chances are you’re too late. Have a unique vision for how you want to invest that matches what you believe in. If you’re relatively new to investing, a conservative strategy that minimizes your risk is always best. Then make small-size investments to limit short-term pain. Don’t bet the farm.
- Adjust Your Plans for “Right Now”
Review and re-evaluate all of your insurance policies — homeowners, auto, rental, life and health. You may have started the policies a while ago, but do they adequately protect the life you live now? After that, check to see whether there are new deals or new products that will save you money on your premiums while giving the same protection.
If you’re a more experienced investor, review your portfolio to make changes that reflect new business trends or the current economic environment. Technology, especially, is changing rapidly. Do you think the same way about the industries you invested in as you did when you first invested?
- Plan for the Worst
Nobody wants to think about dying, but the major difference between wealth in the black community today and that of other communities has almost everything to do with what we leave behind for the next generation. Make a will or review the one you have and make sure your wishes are very clear about the management of your money and belongings.
- Watch Financial Television (But Only Sometimes)
In general, you should avoid taking investment advice from a TV pundit. But channels such as CNBC can be very helpful in learning the lingo of Wall Street, stocks and finance and new developments in business and finance. That comfort can go a long way to making it easier to discuss money and planning with a spouse, your family or a financial adviser.