Stay (Financially) Fit in 2024
January is Financial Wellness Month. Coming out of the holiday season, when it’s easy to go a little overboard on spending, this is a great opportunity to take a look at your own financial strengths and shortcomings—and come up with a plan to address any you may find.
You don’t have to do it alone, either. At Adirondack Regional Federal Credit Union, several of our staff members have completed training to become certified financial counselors. Call any of our branches to set up an appointment to speak with them to go over your own situation. (Think of it like getting a personal trainer, except for your wallet.)
In the meantime, here are four critical steps you can take to make 2024 a great one, financially speaking.
Create a Budget
Everything starts here. Before you can get a handle on your finances, you need to track where your money comes from and where it’s going. That means pulling together your receipts and account statements, categorizing your expenses and separating needs from wants. While this exercise can be a big help in finding places where you can cut back, planning a budget isn’t just about denying yourself fun things; it’s also a helpful tool in ensuring you can save money for other priorities, like a vacation, new car or even a house.
Our counselors are budget pros. Ask them for help building a plan you can stick to.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Feel like one big, unexpected shock would knock your finances off the rails? Join the club: Just 48 percent of U.S. adults say they’ve saved enough to cover three months of expenses, according to a survey sponsored by Bankrate. But financial experts suggest having a cushion at least that big, in case you lose your job, face a medical emergency or encounter another crisis. This is where your budget comes in: Every month, make sure you put enough aside to eventually reach your goal. It may take a while, but the important thing is to stick with your plan.
See how quickly you can save with our savings-goal calculator.
Pay Down Debt
Debt doesn’t just hinder your financial wellness. It can take a toll on your mental wellness, too. But with proper planning, you can do something about your outstanding balances. Your first step is to take stock of what you owe on credit cards and loans, as well as the interest you’re paying on each. If you’re paying only the minimum payments, it will take a lot more time (and cost a lot more money) to drive your debts down to zero. You can approach debt reduction in two ways: By targeting your highest-interest debts with larger monthly payments, you can reduce the overall total you spend on interest. Or start by paying down your lowest debts, and re-allocate the money you spend on monthly payments to higher-balance bills. This may cost more in interest the long run, but gives you the satisfaction of making progress quickly.
You may be able to take out a loan from Adirondack Regional to pay down your credit card debts at a lower interest rate. Talk to us to see whether that’s possible.
Save for the Future
The best time to start saving for retirement was yesterday. But the next best time is right now. The start of the year is a great time to look at the retirement savings options available to you (many employer-sponsored plans, such as 401(k)s, include a company match), and make sure you’re putting away enough money to meet your long-term goals. Remember: Thanks to compound interest, even small amounts turn much larger over time.