5-minute money resolutions for 2019

You don’t need to start the New Year under pressure to make good on all the stuff you didn’t get right last year. Instead, go “easy” on the perpetual “new year, new you” mandate with one of these five-minute money resolutions for 2019.

1. Roll over your old 401(k)

“Orphan” 401(k) accounts are fairly common: A survey from A.T. Kearney found 59% of Americans had at least one from a former employer in 2017. Achieve maximum flexibility by directly rolling an orphan fund into a new employer-sponsored 401(k) or an individual retirement account. It usually just takes a phone call or two. Your old or new provider can help you conduct the transcation without incurring a tax penalty.

2. Rebalance your portfolio

Shield yourself from market turmoil by diversifying your investment portfolio. Check in with your certified financial planner or online financial adviser to make sure you have the right mix of low-to-high risk investments.

3. Check your tax-withholding

Use the Internal Revenue Service’s online withholding calculator to ensure your employer is taking enough out of your paychecks to pay Uncle Sam during the fiscal year. It’s good to do this exercise annually, so you don’t wind up owing big when it’s time to file your taxes.

4. Fill out that life insurance application

Applying for life insurance is a lot easier than it used to be. Policygenius can help you get started and walk you through the process. Step one is compare life insurance quotes across insurers.

5. Set up auto-pay

Make sure you don’t miss a bill next year by setting up auto-pay across service providers, including your insurers, cell phone servicer, cable provider and utility company. (Note: It’s still a good idea to review monthly bills for errors, new fees or upcharges.)

6. Check your credit

Even savvy spenders should check their credit every few months or so. Credit report errors happen more often than you think and can sometimes show signs of identity theft. Fortunately, it’s easy to check your credit for errors or surprises. Federal law entitles everyone to a free credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — every 12 months. You can get these reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.

7. Start an emergency fund

The easiest way to save three-to-six months of expenses for a rainy day? Open an online savings account. They tend to carry higher annual percentage yields (APYs) than accounts at traditional financial institutions. They also make it harder to tap funds for non-emergencies, since you can’t just click a few buttons and transfer money from checking to savings.

8. Create a will

Online legal sites can help you write a will in minutes. Once you’ve have the documents drawn up, you’ll just need to have them signed by two witnesses and a notary. Bonus: Use offer code “protectmylegacy” to get $10 off an estate plan with our partner Trust & Wills.

Disclosure: This post contains references to products or services from one or more of our advertisers or partners. While these codes earn us a small fee at no additional cost to you, we only refer products we love.

Image: Kameleon007

Jeanine Skowronski is Policygenius’ editorial director. She’s also a #CrankyXennial.

Easy Financial Tips For Young Adults

Receiving your first paycheck from your first job can be a uniquely rewarding experience. While you may have earned an allowance growing up for doing chores, or run a lemonade stand over the summer, it’s always exciting to see the benefits in actual paycheck form. As you start earning more paychecks and take on more adult financial tasks, such as paying bills, you’ll have to develop skills to develop a budget and build your credit score.

Fortunately, in 2018 we live in a more digitalized world, as developments in tech continue to grow at an unfettered pace. It’s far easier now to develop a strong sense of financial literacy than it was 30 years ago thanks to mobile apps and better banking technology. And aside from tech, there are all kinds of skills young adults need to learn in order to maintain future financial security. Here are a few of the best ways they can get started.

  • Use mobile apps to manage your budget. Developing a sound budget is one of the most important skills to learn as you take on your first job. You’re likely starting from the ground up, so to avoid having to clean up a mess years down the road, create a budget based on your current expenses, your take-home pay, and your savings. Apps like Mint, which sends you reminders for your bills and lets you see your credit score in real time, or Wally, which helps you track your expenses by letting you take photos of your receipts, are effective especially with young adults who are more tech-savvy.
  • Set up an auto-transfer from your checking account to your savings account. This is an easy one. Once you’ve figured out how much you can budget for savings per month, set up automatic transfers between your accounts so the money will be transferred without you having to think about it.
  • Work toward establishing your credit. As you ease further into your 20s, having a strong credit score is important with regards to renting a home and applying for loans. You can start building your credit by applying for a credit card and making small purchases on it, and ensuring you pay off your balance every month. You can also establish good credit by making sure your bills are regularly paid on time.
  • Create an emergency fund. You never know if or when you’ll hit some kind of financial dire straits, like losing a job or getting an injury or illness that requires you to take time off of work. The general rule of thumb is to have three to six months worth of pay saved in the case of such an emergency. It’s worth noting the importance of keeping this savings account separate from your regular savings account so the two aren’t confused.

12 Essential Money Tips for Every Phase of Your Financial Life

Everyone makes money missteps at some point in their lives, whether it’s splurging on unnecessary items or neglecting to contribute to retirement funds as soon as possible. Even financial pros are not immune to making mistakesR

To help you avoid the same pitfalls, these money experts shared the best advice they’d give to their younger selves. These expert tips and tricks can help you live your best money life — no matter your age.

Click through to get expert tips to make understanding money easy.

1. Start with saving

More than half of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, a GOBankingRates survey found. Although it’s tempting to spend rather than save when you get a paycheck, it’s important to prioritize contributing to your savings accounts, the experts said. One way to make it easier is to automate payments.

“If you don’t see it, you won’t spend it,” said Sharon Epperson, CNBC senior personal finance correspondent and host of CNBC’s “Retire Well.” “Have money automatically directed from your paycheck to a savings account that isn’t tied to your checking account.”

2. Avoid lifestyle inflation

Ted Jenkin, a certified financial planner, said it’s also important to increase your savings rate whenever you start earning more to keep growing your net worth.

“Save one-third of every pay raise you get so you don’t succumb to lifestyle inflation,” he said. By starting this practice early in your career, you’ll develop good habits like saving, investing and paying down debts instead of spending it on more stuff you won’t care about in a few years’ time.

3. Don’t waste your money on things you don’t need

Whether you’ve just received your first paycheck or your first raise, it can be tempting to spend your money on things you want rather than on things you need — but this can be a huge mistake.

“Don’t spend so much money on clothing,” said Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, founder of the personal finance blog “Making Sense of Cents.” “I’ve worked full-time since I was around the age of 14, yet I didn’t really start saving money until nearly a decade later.”

4. Don’t buy things to impress other people

Spending on immediate wants can hurt your future needs, said John Rampton, founder and CEO of Calendar.

“Don’t waste your time on expensive cars or gadgets,” he said. “It’s better to save money for the long term and for things that can keep generating money, rather than taking [your] money.”

Related: 12 Times You Should and Shouldn’t Invest in Your Favorite Brands

5. Start investing in your retirement ASAP

Over one-third of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, GOBankingRates’ 2018 Retirement Savings survey found. It’s easy to put off saving for retirement when you’re in your 20s, but that’s the best time to start. The sooner you save, the sooner you can take advantage of compound interest. No matter your age, it’s important to prioritize investing in your retirement accounts, the experts said.

“Start contributing to a Roth IRA with that taxable income you’re earning,” said Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together. “I wish I’d started investing earlier with something as simple as Roth IRA in college.”

6. Don’t fear the stock market

Doing something that scares you can be a good thing for your finances. Novice investors are often scared of the stock market, but just by getting started, even on a small scale, you’re furthering your financial life. That’s why Tom Hegna — financial author, speaker and economist — thinks you should invest in the stock market. Certified financial planner Jeff Rose concurs.

“Invest sooner,” said Rose. “I started investing at 24, but I started working when I was 16 and could have invested a little bit of money sooner.”

7. Now, invest even more

“Invest in the market, and lock in gains by purchasing income,” Hegna said. “Once you have your basic expenses covered with income, buy more.”

By making wise investments now, you can create income for yourself in retirement to supplement Social Security, allowing you to live a more comfortable life in retirement.

8. Invest in yourself

In addition to making financial investments, it’s important to invest in yourself by learning everything you can about personal finance so you can create a financial plan that works for you.

“No one will care about your financial success as much as you will,” said Marsha Barnes, certified financial social worker and founder of The Finance Bar. “Learn as much as you can today.”

It’s easy to write-off personal finance as confusing, but you’re only hurting yourself. The sooner you take the time to learn some money basics, the sooner you can use this knowledge to plan out short- and long-term goals.

9. Listen to yourself and take action

“Figure out what you want in life, then make decisions based around this goal,” said J.D. Roth, founder of the financial website Get Rich Slowly. “Once I got clear on what my larger aims were, I was able to make financial decisions that supported these goals.”

When you know exactly what you’re saving for, it motivates you to stick to your goals and work even harder.

10. Don’t waste time worrying

And don’t let fear get in the way of going after what you want, said Jen Sincero, New York Times bestselling author and success coach.

“Worrying is praying for what you don’t want, so stop worrying about money and focus on what you do want,” she said.

Related: 15 Money Habits That Are Making Millennials Rich

11. Remember that money isn’t everything

Although you need money to cover expenses and other life necessities, it isn’t the be-all and end-all. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for what you deserve.

“Ask for more money and learn to negotiate as soon as possible,” said money expert Brittney Castro. “[But] don’t chase money, because it’s not the holy grail. Enjoy it. Make lots of it. But always remember it’s a resource, not an indication of who or what you are in the world.”

12. Don’t let money define you

Dominique Broadway, a millennial personal finance expert and founder of Finances Demystified, agreed that money doesn’t define you or your success.

“Do not link money with success,” she said. “Money can come and go. Focus on saving and growing your money, and don’t focus on ‘shiny things’ to keep up with other people.”