A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found money is a top cause of stress for Americans and a major source of conflict in their relationships.
There’s good reason to be worried. Only 40 percent of adults think they’re making good progress toward their savings goals.
You don’t have to live in a state of money madness. Make the effort at least once a year to get your financial house in order by following a few of these common sense changes.
Check your withholding
Take control of your cash flow. That starts with looking at your paycheck and finding out how much is being taken out for taxes. The goal is a “goldilocks scenario.” You want that number to be just right so Uncle Sam doesn’t take out too much leaving you with not enough money in the bank. On the other hand, if the tax withheld is too small, you’ll be stuck with a big tax bill come April. Avoid this by going to IRS.gov and use the withholding calculator to figure out what changes to make, then update your W-4 with your employer.
Put your savings on autopilot
It’s easier to save when you’re not thinking about it, and that’s exactly what automatic savings plans allow you to do. It’s as simple as setting up an online transfer with your bank that moves money from your checking to your savings. Have a transfer set up for every time you get paid and use that money to build your “‘rainy day” fund, which should equal about six months’ worth of expenses.
Tackle your retirement
There are no loans for retirement, and with defined benefit plans like pensions becoming increasingly scarce it’s up to you to stockpile your nest egg. Commit to saving more right away, even if it’s just an additional 1 percent, because that little bit will make a difference. According to Fidelity Investments, if a 35-year-old increases his or her contribution by 1 percent and then does that again four more times for a total increase of 5 percent, they will see an additional $484 per month in retirement.
Save a tree and the hassle
If you haven’t taken full advantage of online bill pay, now is the time. Get your statements electronically delivered so you can see them anytime, anywhere. Then, set up to pay recurring bills automatically each month.
Get a handle on your debt
The simplest and most effective way to start trimming away at your credit card debt is go after higher-interest cards first. Pay as much as you can above the minimum each month on that card and don’t use it until you’re no longer carrying a balance. Don’t resign yourself to a higher interest rate, take a minute to call your credit card issuer and negotiate for a lower one. Consumers who asked for lower rates were successful 78 percent of the time. according to CreditCards.com.