As the seasons change from summer to fall, you may find yourself planning drives to see the colorful leaves, making pumpkin art, building a bonfire or watching your favorite sports. It also means the holidays and the New Year aren’t far off. It’s a great time to get your financial plan in shape for whatever the next year has in store. If you need some motivation to ensure you’re financially fit ahead of New Year’s, here are some fall tips to help meet your financial goals.
Plan Ahead for Holidays and Unexpected Expenses
One lesson from nature—storing extra for the winter can help see you through—is a good example to follow. For you, that could mean setting aside money for unexpected expenses. Put funds in a designated savings account; then, you’ll not only grow your money by earning dividends, but you might also be more likely to stick to a holiday budget. And, if a car or home repair or medical bill crops up, you’ll be ready to face it.
Explore Your Credit Score
If you’re thinking of financing a major expense like a car, house, renovation or tuition, having a good credit score means you’ll likely qualify for a better interest rate. But what factors affect a credit score? What can you do to improve it in the eyes of lenders?
Much like finding your way through a corn maze, your credit score is based on moves you’ve made in the past. While there are several credit scoring formulas, they’re generally based on your payment history, the amount you still owe, the types of credit accounts you have and more. If you have no credit history or your score is lower than you’d like, it’s not the end of the world. There are financial decisions you can make to improve it. Check out our Mission: Credit Confidence® Dashboard to learn more about credit scores and how to improve yours.
Review Your Current Loans
Taking stock of where you are right now is key to your financial strategy. Review any loans you currently have—like student loans, auto loans or your mortgage—to see if refinancing makes sense. If you refinance to a lower interest rate, you could save on your monthly payments and apply those savings toward other expenses or put them away for a rainy day.
Use Credit Cards Wisely
It’s tempting to pull out your credit card for that daily pumpkin spice latte or take-out meal. But small charges add up fast. Make sure you don’t spend more than you can afford to repay. A good rule of thumb is not to exceed 30 percent of your credit limit. If possible, pay off the entire balance each month so you can avoid interest charges on credit card debt. If that’s not possible, pay more than the minimum payment. Then, you’ll pay less interest and reduce your debt sooner.
Consider Investing for a Financial Touchdown
Take a page from your favorite football team’s playbook: planning long-term strategies is the best way to win. For us, finding ways to grow our money over time is a sure way to increase our financial health and improve our financial future. One strategy many of our members use to grow their money as part of their retirement plan is to invest in stocks, bonds and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).
We’ve learned that even if the market fluctuates, historical trends show it ultimately bounces back. So, if you review and tweak your plan as needed, you’re more likely, though not guaranteed, to see more growth over the long term.
If you need help with today’s markets, you can also schedule a free phone meeting with a Navy Federal Investment Services advisor.
Carve Out a Financial Plan for the Future
You may have multiple goals for the future. Making sure you have money for retirement, for example, should be a top priority. The sooner you start, the more you can build and the more time you have to build. If you have a retirement contribution match at work, sign up. If you don’t, it’s like leaving free money on the table. Even if your employer only offers a small match, you’ll be better off if you enroll.
Don’t have an employer-sponsored plan? Or think you can’t spare the money? Open your own retirement account and start small. Then, build up as you can afford more. The main thing is to set aside money and make it a habit. If you treat retirement savings like any other bill, you’ll be less likely to miss the money. And, there’s one more benefit to retirement accounts: most have tax benefits to help make saving for long-term goals easier.
Decide That Budgeting Is a Big Benefit
It’s an old money management idea, but it still holds true: one of the best ways to enhance your financial fitness and meet savings goals is to spend less than you earn. Compare your debts (e.g., housing, bills, student loans) and living expenses to your earnings. Then, decide where you can change spending habits. Can you cut the cable cord, reduce takeout meals or stop subscriptions? You’ll be surprised at how making even small changes can make a big difference. It takes practice, but each time you make a smart choice, you’ll be that much closer to your financial goals.
- Interested in more ideas for financial fitness? A great place to start is setting—and sticking to—a budget. Learn the basics of budgeting.
- If you’re ready to take the next step toward serious retirement planning, Navy Federal Credit Union can help. Our Personal Financial Counselors can get you started, or you could work with one of our Navy Federal Investment Services financial advisors to set retirement planning goals and secure your financial future.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.