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32 top financial priorities

By Marcie Geffner · Bankrate.com
Monday, April 9, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

Prioritizing your financial goals and tasks can be overwhelming.

That's why the National Endowment for Financial Education, or NEFE, and the Financial Planning Association, or FPA, have come up with a list of how most people should prioritize their personal finances.

The list is based on input from more than 300 financial planners.

Top ranked, by a landslide, was living within your means. Spending less than you earn is the best way to ensure you'll meet your financial goals, the organizations said in a statement.

Up next was protecting yourself with adequate health, disability, long-term care, auto, homeowners and renters insurance. (A cynic might point out that many financial planners also sell these products.)

No. 3 was building an emergency savings account that's kept separate from other savings.

No. 4 was having adequate life insurance for your family's needs. (The same cynic's comment applies.)

Here's the rest of the list.

5. Understand your financial goals.

6. Communicate with your family about your finances.

7. Know how much debt you have, and have a payoff plan.

8. Ensure your job security.

9. Perform a regular financial checkup.

10. Spend less than a third of your income on housing.

11. Have a will and financial and health care powers of attorney.

12. Know your partner's financial personality.

13. Save a portion of every paycheck.

14. Take advantage of employer-based savings programs.

15. Calculate how much money you'll need for retirement.

16. Understand the time value of money.

17. Plan for change before it happens.

18. Spend wisely.

19. Understand financial terminology.

20. Save at least 10 percent of your earnings.

21. Combine financial planning with doing your tax returns.

22. Understand the risks versus returns of investing.

23. Set budgets for holidays and celebrations.

24. Understand your sources of income.

25. Use credit responsibly.

26. Manage your relationships with companies and individuals that provide financial services to you.

27. Take advantage of workplace benefits.

28. Prepare a financial emergency kit.

29. Safeguard your financial documents.

30. Track your spending.

31. Don't defer maintenance of your assets.

32. Review your credit report.

What's your top financial priority?

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff.

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