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Financial resolutions are top of mind for many Americans as they ring in the year 2023, which is a time of decades-high inflation and higher borrowing rates. In fact, many consumers now carry more credit card debt, while the majority of households are uneasy with their level of emergency savings.
Your New Year’s financial resolutions may be to pay down debt, build up savings, start investing, or increase your retirement fund contributions. Various practical strategies can help you succeed in meeting these money-related goals.
1. Find the best savings account
Those looking to beef up their savings in the coming year would do well to find a savings account that pays a high yield. A standard savings account provides easy access to your funds, making it a good place for an emergency fund or other money you may need in the near future.
Big banks commonly offer savings accounts that pay rock-bottom annual percentage yields (APYs), while online banks tend to pay APYs that are exponentially higher. Those who prefer branch access, however, may still be able to shop around and find competitive rates at a local brick-and-mortar bank or credit union.
2. Consider a CD
A certificate of deposit (CD) is another way to earn interest on your money as you save for certain goals. A CD requires you to lock in your money in exchange for a fixed rate of interest. For instance, if you plan to take a vacation next year, a one-year CD can be a place to earn a competitive yield on your money.
It’s important to be able to part with your money for the set term, since CDs usually charge an early withdrawal penalty to those who end up needing their funds sooner.
3. Lower your credit card APR
If you have a resolution this year to pay off the balance on a credit card, you may be able to eliminate the debt sooner by decreasing the annual percentage rate (APR).
One possible way to do this is to call the credit card company and request a lower rate. “If you find another credit card with the same terms and a lower interest rate, sometimes you can convince your current card to shave a fraction of a percent off your interest rate,” says Howard Dvorkin, CPA and chairman of Debt.com.
Another option is to transfer your balance to a new credit card with a 0 percent introductory APR period. This gives you some time to pay down the balance without incurring interest.
“Balance transfers can sometimes be a useful tool in managing debt,” says Kaitlin Walsh-Epstein, chief marketing officer at Laurel Road, a digital banking platform and brand of KeyBank. “However, you should also be mindful that having too many accounts open can have implications for your credit score. You also need to evaluate any introductory period for balance transfers and then what your interest rate would be after that introductory period ends.”
4. Make extra mortgage payments
Many homeowners look forward to finally owning their home outright. If you want to go the extra mile to bring down your mortgage balance in 2023, consider making one or more extra payments.
Making one extra payment each year, devoted entirely to the principal, can eliminate tens of thousands of dollars in interest off of the loan. It can also shave several years off of your mortgage.
Another way to pay off your mortgage sooner is to make biweekly mortgage payments instead of monthly ones. This ultimately enables you to make 26 payments in a year, devoting more money to the principal and resulting in a faster payoff.
5. Maximize your retirement savings
More than half of Americans feel they aren’t saving enough for retirement, a recent Bankrate survey found. “Every little bit helps,” says Barbara A. Pietrangelo, certified financial planner and chair-elect at financial nonprofit organization Life Happens. “Start with a small amount and raise it a bit every year, or whenever you get a raise or lower your expenses. It will add up in no time.”
Employer-sponsored 401(k) plans allow you to defer taxes on the money saved until retirement. Many employers also match some of your contribution up to a certain amount, so it’s important to put in enough to get the full match. In 2023, you can contribute up to $22,500 in a 401(k).
An individual retirement account (IRA) is another popular way to save for your golden years. These tax-advantaged investment accounts can often be opened online in just a few minutes. According to IRS rules, those under age 50 can contribute up to $6,500 to an IRA in 2023, while those over 50 can contribute an additional $1,000.
6. Consider investment options
In addition to contributing to your retirement fund, you may wish to go after other investment opportunities to help build wealth in the coming year. Unlike a savings account, investing in the financial markets can be a way to outpace the current rate of inflation.
An index fund is either an exchange traded fund (ETF) or a mutual fund, which is made up of a group of stocks. Index funds may be a good option for brand new investors or anyone who doesn’t wish to actively pick stocks. Their benefits may include low risk, low cost and attractive returns.
Another popular investment option is bonds, which generally carry less risk than stocks. Bonds can help balance out the riskier stocks in a portfolio. You can buy bonds from a broker or directly from the U.S. Treasury. You can also purchase a bond mutual fund or ETF.
7. Look into life insurance
One goal to consider in 2023 is making sure your loved ones would be provided for in the event of your death. Life insurance is one way to do this, and there’s no time like the present to look into getting life insurance or review a plan you already have.
Term life insurance stays in effect for a predetermined amount of time, which is commonly between 10 and 30 years. If the person who is insured passes away during that time, a death benefit is paid to the designated beneficiaries.
“Term insurance is an easy way to start out. It is very reasonably priced, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of,” says Pietrangelo of Life Happens.
Permanent life insurance provides coverage for one’s entire life, as long as the premiums continue to be paid. Because of this, permanent life insurance is significantly more expensive than term life insurance.
When deciding the type and amount of life insurance that’s best for you, consider how long you’ll want the coverage for, as well as how much money you feel your loved ones might need if you were to pass away.
8. Simplify money management with a mobile app
Your bank’s mobile app can help you meet certain savings and debt-repayment goals in the coming year. Some bank apps automatically categorize your spending, for instance, so you have a snapshot of where your money is going each month.
Mobile apps make it convenient to move money between accounts, set up recurring transfers and create account alerts, says Chris Moore, director of deposit and payments product strategy at Alliant Credit Union. “It makes it easier for people to stay on top of their finances,” he says.
9. Live within your means
One of the most important ways to increase savings and stay out of debt is simple: Strive to spend less money than the amount you bring in. This requires some time and effort on your part, since you’ll need to set up a budget and make adjustments to your spending habits. However, the benefits it brings are significant. You’ll be able to build wealth, and you’ll sleep better at night knowing you have enough money to cover your bills and any financial emergencies that come your way.
10. Boost your financial literacy
A recent survey by the National Financial Educators Council found that a lack of knowledge about personal finances cost people an average of $1,819 in 2022.
Being financially healthy requires a certain level of knowledge so you can make sound decisions to save money, keep out of debt, manage your credit, handle taxes and make investments. Unfortunately, a money management course often isn’t a requirement in high school.
You can increase your financial literacy by checking out articles on Bankrate that cover topics like budgeting, finding the right savings account, investing your money, buying your first home, and what to do with an inheritance.
If you have kids, you can ensure they learn about personal finance by helping them set up a bank account and teaching them about investing.
Some simple strategies can help you get closer to your financial goals in 2023 when it comes to building up your bank account, paying off debt, maximizing your retirement savings, and building wealth through investing.