Q: I want to make 2017 the year I fix up my finances for real. How can I give my money a fresh start?
A: I applaud your commitment to financial fitness. This is one of the most meaningful things you can do for yourself in 2017 and beyond.
While your resolve is strongest, set aside cash for emergencies in a traditional savings account. Make your primary goal to save $500 by automating transfers from your checking account. Over time, work toward accumulating at least three months’ worth of expenses. Remember, this is for unexpected costs such as medical bills and car repairs, not a sleek new snowboard.
Next, if you’re not saving for retirement, start now. Many employers match your 401(k) contributions, so try to save at least enough there to collect that free money. Even if your workplace doesn’t offer a plan, you can open an individual retirement account.
Small contributions can grow to big bucks over time: If you start saving $50 a month when you’re 25, you’ll have about $100,000 by age 65, assuming a 6 percent average annual rate of return. Wait until age 35 to start saving that same $50 per month and you’ll have just about $50,000.
Getting your emergency and retirement accounts started is huge, and those might be the only things you focus on this year. But once they’re set, here are ways to bring your money makeover to the next level.
Vanquish your student loan dread
Make this the year you take control of your student loan debt. If you pay more than you can afford toward your federal student loans, sign up for income-driven repayment at studentloans.gov. Your payments will be capped at…