ORANGEBURG — Americans have shown that consumer confidence for the Christmas season was not as good as had been hoped. Blame goes to concern about the future, particularly with the impact at home of what happens and does not happen in Washington.
What transpires with taxes, the markets and other macro-economic issues is out of the direct control of individuals. That leaves people to focus on what they can do to better themselves financially, staying as far away from personal “fiscal cliffs” as possible.
Not surprisingly, the beginning of a new year is seen as a good time to assess and reassess. And not without good reason.
“Making small improvements at the beginning of the year is a lot easier than trying to play catch-up,” says financial planner Rick Rodgers, author of “The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning.”
As 2012 ends and 2013 dawns, how do you go about getting yourself pointed in the right direction financially?
“Just as you would embark on an exercise program to lose weight and get physically fit, there are simple steps you can take that will lead to being financially healthy and fit,” Rodgers says.
• Review your credit report: Borrowing money isn’t the only reason to check your credit. Employers check credit reports and so do insurance companies. Your credit score can have a profound effect on the amount you pay for auto and homeowners insurance — and perhaps on health and life insurance in the not-too-distant future.
• Set up an automatic savings plan
• Establish a cash-flow plan: Business owners know you can’t control what you don’t track. Take the time to forecast your income and expenses for the year, and put it in writing.
• Pay off your credit cards: It’s especially important to take action on debt in 2013. Cash doesn’t earn much interest sitting in a deposit account. So if you’re sitting on any extra savings, consider using it to pay down credit card debt.
• Shop your insurance: Insurance agents are often paid commission based on premium levels, so they have no incentive for finding existing customers lower premiums.
• Meet with a financial adviser: An adviser is to financial planning as a personal trainer is to an exercise program. Allow yourself to be held accountable by a third party who will push you to help yourself.