Laura Edgar is a senior writer for NerdWallet.com, an unbiased consumer finance website committed to promoting financial literacy.
This year, make it a priority to get your finances in order. Resolutions like “save money” or “spend less” are well intentioned, but they don’t constitute a plan of action. You’re more likely to stick to your resolutions if they’re simple, clear and action oriented. Here are a few suggestions from the financial literacy experts at NerdWallet to keep you on track.
I will not pay checking fees
Most bank customers pay an average of $117 in fees per year for things like overdrafts and out-of-network ATM use. As a member of a credit union, you’re already on track to save money. BrightStar’s free checking account gives you access to thousands of free ATMs nationwide, plus other great perks like a rewards debit card and free financial counseling. You can help keep your account free by monitoring your balance online, building up a reserve in your savings account avoiding overdrafts. If you don’t already have a checking account with BrightStar, now’s a great time to get one. You’ll get $100 just for signing up.
I will pay off my student loans
If student loan debt is “good debt”, Americans have too much of a good thing.
According to the New York Federal Reserve, the average student loan debt is now greater than the average credit card debt. In fact, student debt now exceeds $956 billion in total, and the average borrower graduating in 2011 owed $26,600. Yikes! Educate yourself about your repayment options and find a sustainable solution that works for you. If you’re still in school, don’t borrow more than you need.
I will get out of debt
The average American household credit card debt is $7,150. You can pull yourself out by creating a debt repayment plan. We recommend prioritizing your debts by interest rate. If you pay the one with the highest interest rate first, you’ll end up spending less money to pay down your debts over time. We also recommend enlisting professional help. Take advantage of BrightStar’s free financial counseling services for members, offered in partnership with Balance.
I will start saving for retirement
Did you have a 401(k) at your previous job? Now is a great time to roll it over into an IRA. Don’t have a 401(k)? Consider getting an IRA anyway. Most retired people can’t count on employer benefits or social security (or even both!) for all their financial needs, so it’s important to build a nest egg for yourself. IRAs have the added benefit of letting you save for retirement tax-free. What’s not to like?
I will talk about money and estate planning with my partner and my family
Most people have a hard time talking about money. For couples, it’s often harder. Nevertheless, it’s better to have that awkward conversation sooner rather than later. How else can you make sure your family and your assets are protected in your absence? Write your will, look into life insurance, and check in with older family members like your parents to see what their plans are.