My friends and I have a saying when it comes to enjoying our Best Life: “Live in the now. But save enough for tomorrow.”
As fall starts, and you start making plans for your own personal “2017 forecast and beyond,” put order to the chaos by following these six simple rules from Best Life Online. Are you saving enough for emergencies? For retirement? Are you spending every paycheck optimally? They might sound like big questions, but with the right guidelines and tools, tackling them can be simple and extremely satisfying.
Start here, and then discover the story that has changed thousands of lives: the essential 100 Ways to Live Until 100!
Rebalance your 401k
Only about 15 percent of us changed the allocations in our 401k plans last year. That means money down the drain, if you’re sticking with lackluster-performing funds. You should also ensure your portfolio’s stock-to-bond ratio makes sense for your age: As you get closer to retirement, more of your money should move from stocks to the safer haven of bonds. Look at how the funds in your 401k have performed over the past year; you might want to switch to better performers. (Morningstar.com rates all stocks and funds on a one- to-five-star scale.) Confused? Don’t want to bother with rebalancing? Switch to a target-date retirement fund, which will calibrate itself for you.
Increase your savings
If you say, What savings?, you’re not alone. 62 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in the bank. That’s unacceptable. You should have at least eight months’ expenses in a savings account. Open a high-interest online savings account and have an automatic deposit made from your paycheck. Work up to 10 percent. (As of January 2016, Synchrony Bank and Ally Bank offer the highest interest rates — 1.05% and 1% APR, respectively — and don’t require a minimum deposit.) To make the most of every day, don’t miss this amazing list of the 40 Things You Should Do in Your 40s!
Invest in a low-cost index fund
Think you can beat the market with stock tips that are hiding in an obscure corner of the internet that only you’ll find? News flash: You won’t. Financial icons like Warren Buffett, John C. Bogle and Paul Munger all advocate investing in an index fund: A broadly diversified set of funds that tracks a good chunk of or the entire stock market. That eliminates risk. Use a discount brokerage like Fidelity or Vanguard, which offer a wider range of index funds. Whatever you do, don’t keep the majority of your money in your company’s stock or mutual funds, whose fees tend to be unreasonably high.
Set a deadline to get out of debt
The number-one cure for anxiety is to confront it head-on. So take a look at what you owe on your credit cards, terrifying as that might be. (A good tool for surveying your entire financial picture is Mint.com — you can plug in all your credit cards and bank accounts and see exactly where you’re money’s going every month.) Use a debt repayment calculator like the ones on Bankrate and Credit Karma to see exactly how much you’re paying in interest per year, and how much you can save by paying things off sooner. Set a deadline and stick to it. That way you can spend the rest of your time enjoying these incredible 50 Things You Must Do Before You Die!
Cut the crap
We all do it: Eating out one too many times a week, spending the GNP of a small country with daily Starbucks runs, mindlessly shelling out for a rarely used annual golf membership. There are two simple rules about these minor expenses and indulgences: They’re never as minor as you think, and they can get major fast. Resolve to cut all the junk from your budget now. (Using a tool like Mint that automatically categorizes every debit-card swipe and check you write will make it easy to cut the fat.) An easy and painless place to start: This might be the year to finally cut the cord. Streaming services like HBOGo and Hulu probably make your cable bill seem bloated.
Fire-proof your life
In an era of constant corporate cost-trimming and reorganization, no one’s job is safe. And do you really want it to be? Entrepreneurship is the way of the future; always be ready to strike out on your own. Retool your LinkedIn profile with updated info and a pro photo. Write yourself the outline of a business plan — or at least an elevator pitch — for You Inc., even if you don’t think you’ll use it. You might find that putting your dreams down on paper could lead to a lucrative future you hadn’t fully considered. You’ll feel a weight lifted, having that security—and while you’re at it, turbocharge your happiness with these 25 Ways to Be Happier Now!