As many of you may or may not know, April is Financial Literacy Month! Many initiatives and programs have been advertised to raise awareness about the importance of financial literacy. I for one sat down and reviewed my budgets for the past four months to determine what progress I have made and what improvements need to be made. I’ve also reviewed bank statements and credit reports looking for discrepancies, suspicious activity, or fraudulent account activity. With all of the recent data breaches, I can’t stress enough the importance of checking your credit reports from all three bureaus. You get a free copy once a year. In fact, my son received yet another new bank card and notice from his bank due to another data breach. Consider freezing your credit reports to prevent people from opening credit in your name. Another tool that I’ve found to be helpful was setting up account activity alerts through my mobile banking app. I set this up after discovering fraudulent activity on my account.
Members of our Financial Independent facebook group have been posting financial questions and challenges for the month of April. One, in particular, caught my eye. This couple is preparing a “life book” of some sort. They are creating a book with financial information, insurance information, account information, and other pertinent information needed for a responsible person to make decisions in the event something happens to them. To me, this goes hand-in-hand with estate planning.
April marks the first quarter of the year. If you haven’t started making any improvements, today is the day. Below is a list of things that I have learned and suggestions to help you get started and to keep you focused.
- Determine your net worth– If you need a simple formula, check out the Budgetnista. She provides information on how to calculate your net worth. You should be working on improving your net worth each year by paying down debt and/or increasing your income.
- Review your savings accounts- Are you saving money every month? Determine if you can afford to save more money by reducing some line items in your budget. I seem to find more each month.
- Review retirement accounts- Are you putting enough money away for your future? If not recalculate what you can afford. People who start investing in their 20s can become millionaires! Not many careers offer pensions anymore. You are responsible for managing your own retirement accounts. Determine how much you need to live off of for a year.
- Have family money discussions- Equip your children with the tools they need to be successful.
- Start a household budget-Give your money an assignment. Try to avoid going over your budget if possible.
- Evaluate transportation, housing, and food cost- These are the three biggest unavoidable expenses. See if anything can be adjusted, even if it means moving to more affordable housing if you are a renter. Most people can stand to cut back on their grocery bill. There are several resources available to assist you with saving in that category. How much is your car payment? Can you refinance it? Can you sell it and buy something more affordable? Are you a member of a credit union? Credit unions tend to offer lower interest rates.
These are just a few suggestions. What did you do this quarter? Drop a comment below!
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