1. Get paid for what you are worth.
You may think you are being paid for what you are worth. Do a little research, then find the employer who is willing to pay what you are worth. That may mean changing jobs, but you might also ask for a raise. Being underpaid can add up to a lot of money over a career.
2. Spend less than you earn.
This really means avoiding debt, which is very difficult to do. If you must take out a car loan or use credit cards, make sure you are getting the lowest interest rates possible (shop around) and try to pay off everything early. It also means shopping for the best prices and keeping your belt tight.
3. Develop a budget and stick to it.
Make a list of all your expenses. When you add an expense, add it to the list. When a bill increases, make the change to your list. Make sure that this total is always lower than the amount you earn.
4. Pay off credit cards and auto loans.
Interest is the amount you pay someone else to use their money. Miss a payment on a credit card and they jerk your rates up. The single best way to gain financial independence is to make sure you don’t owe anybody anything. The one exception is, obviously, your mortgage. Other than that, try to remain debt free.
5. Start a retirement plan.
If you follow the above rules, you should have enough money to put into a retirement program (401k, IRA, etc.). Why is this important? You are used to having a certain amount to live on all your life. Social Security won’t be near enough, so you need to make sure you have a separate retirement income.
6. Put aside money for the lean times.
Think you will never lose your job? Think you can avoid serious illness? Think you have planned for everything? Think again. Set aside a certain amount every month for savings. Try to make sure you always have enough in savings to pay your bills for at least 6 months. You will breathe easier.
7. Take advantage of employee benefits.
If your employer offers health benefits and a 401k retirement plan, make sure you take advantage of it. Employer sponsored programs can save you thousands a year by reducing taxes and out of pocket expenses.
8. Review your insurance coverage.
Talk to your insurance agents at least yearly and make sure you are not over paying. A great agent can save you a lot of money by properly insuring you. You don’t want too much, but (in our law suit crazy world), you don’t want too little.
9. Have a living trust.
A living trust will keep your heirs out of court and save them thousands in estate taxes. A living trust includes a “pour over” will that states exactly who get what. Your trust also talks about what you want done with your life while you are still living and should you get terminally ill. It prepares your finances for their transition to the next generation.
10. Keep good records.
Good record keeping will help your tax preparation. You don’t want to miss any deductions or credits that may result in you paying more in taxes than you should.
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