Fresh Start, New Money Year
The holidays now feel like a distant memory and you are experiencing the hangover via your bulging credit card bill. Not sure what to do besides dig deeper under your blanket? It's not that bad, and, here are three easy ways to get your new year to a fresh start.
Ramp Up the ROTH
I’m a huge fan of the ROTH IRA for so many reasons. Even if you have a 401(k) or are self-employed with a SEP IRA, that’s ok. You can still contribute to a ROTH IRA as long as you earn less than $120,000 as a single person or $179,000 as a married couple. You don’t get any tax benefits now but the withdrawals are TAX-FREE after age 59 ½. If you save the $5,000 per year for the next 30 years, you could build a nest egg of over $415,000 – that is tax-free upon withdrawal! Plus there is lots of flexibility if you need to withdraw the money for a first-time home purchase or other reasons. My favorite places to open a ROTH IRA are Fidelity and Vanguard. Vanguard has a $3,000 minimum to open an account but then you can add as little as $50 a month on an ongoing basis. Fidelity has mutual funds with lower minimums. If you don’t have enough for the minimum, T. Rowe Price waives the minimum as long as you contribute at least $75 a month automatically. No matter where you open it, make automatic contributions every month. You won’t miss it. You can contribute as much as $5,000 per year (or $413 per month)
Save for Summer Vacation
It’s hard to imagine the warm weather now but when summertime rolls around your mind wanders to that Caribbean vacation that is now 50% reduced. Or the summer share in the Hamptons. Or perhaps you want to visit your nieces and nephews in San Francisco. But… you haven’t saved for it and your savings account has more dust than dollars in it. Now is the time to create a separate savings account – apart from the emergency fund that you are contributing to every month, right?! My favorite online high interest savings account has been INGDIRECT.com but American Express also offers a competitive rate of almost 1%. I’ve created two savings accounts: one for emergencies and one for “Save to Spend” for items like vacations and other purchases that prevent us from getting ahead.
Get Digital with Your Money.
These days I don’t go a day with using a personal finance app or website. I use different one for many different reasons. Some of my favorite apps:
Mint.com: To view my spending for the last month and make sure I’m spending under my total amount budgeted. I also love the snapshot feature that lets my view all my accounts, investments, debts and loans in one place.
Pennies: I want to keep an eye going forward on how much I’m spending weekly. The tracking feature lets me set a weekly or monthly spending amount and easily input my daily expenses. I input them while I’m standing in line getting my morning coffee. This app doesn’t need my personal information, which can ease many of your privacy information fears.
Morningstar.com: I’ve got my mutual funds bookmarked online and am able to easily see how they are performing especially compared to leading indices. Even though the market is volatile, I’m able to make sure my mutual funds are doing better than the market and I’m still in good shape. The app is easy to follow as well.