The Halloween season is in full swing and there are plenty of ghouls and ghosts out there trying to trick you. Don’t let these financial demons sneak up on you!
If you don’t have a budget in place, your finances can be scary! To get a snapshot of where your hard-earned money is being spent, keep track of all your expenses for a month. In addition to obvious large expenses like your rent or mortgage and utilities, don’t forget to track every pumpkin spice latte and broomstick you buy as well as expenses that occur regularly but not every month such as semi-annual insurance premiums. Once you know where you are spending your money, organize your expenses into a budget. Creating a budget will outline how your expenses measure up to your income so you can create a spending plan to ensure you are prepared to handle any financial “tricks” that may come your way.
Perhaps one of the biggest financial quandaries facing consumers today is the effective management of their debt. School loans and credit card debt haunt many American families. Shouldering too much debt isn’t only hard on your psyche, it also hurts your credit score. Adjust your budget to account for paying off your balances as soon as possible. Be mindful of the interest rates and repayment terms for each of your debts. Focus on making additional principal payments, starting with the debts with the highest interest rate.
Virtual crooks are always on the prowl. To avoid the terror of having your identity stolen, ensure your computer is protected with anti-virus software, use strong passwords and change them regularly, shred sensitive documents and protect your personal information. You should also monitor your credit report and keep a close eye on your balances. If you notice any suspicious transactions, notify your bank immediately.
Accidents, injuries, and illnesses can all catch you off-guard and result in costly bills. But if you are prepared with an emergency fund, these sudden expenses aren’t so scary. You should aim to have three to six months of living expenses saved. Saving that much can be daunting! Setting-up automatic savings is an easy and effective way to build your emergency fund. Every month or every pay period, have your bank transfer a fixed amount from your checking account to a savings account and watch your savings grow.
Nonexistent retirement savings
There are many unknown variables when planning for retirement which makes many people feel overwhelmed. However, it is important to start saving as soon as possible. If there is a retirement savings plan sponsored by your employer, make sure you optimize that plan. If you can’t contribute the maximum ($18,500 per year) to your 401(k), try increasing the amount you save each year. Many employers offer to match your contribution, so at the very least, save the amount your employer will match. If you don’t have a retirement plan with your employer, make sure you contribute to an IRA (Individual Retirement Account). The common suggestion is to allocate 10% of your monthly income toward retirement savings.
Don’t Get Tricked
These are some scary financial situations, but there are things you can do today to defend against these threats. If you’re a cautious consumer and practice living within your means, you’ll enjoy all the treats and none of the tricks. Happy Halloween!
Univest Bank and Trust Co. is Member FDIC.
Securities and insurance products are offered through Univest Investments, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC and a licensed insurance agency. Investment advisory services are offered through Girard Partners, a Univest Wealth Management Firm. These affiliated companies are licensed subsidiaries of Univest Corporation of Pennsylvania. Products and services offered are not FDIC insured, are not a deposit of or bank guaranteed, and are subject to risks, including possible loss of any principal amount invested.