5 steps to financial stability

Financial stability

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Would you consider yourself financially comfortable or financially well-off? Have you taken any steps toward financial stability?

Most Americans do see a difference, according to a recent Countrywide Financial survey. Nearly half of Americans say $50,000 to $100,000 in annual household income is enough to live comfortably, but just 34 percent of Americans consider that same income to be well-off–neither of which necessarily speak to financial stability.

That gap widens as you make more money too. Seventy-four percent of those making under $50,000 think that earning $50,000 or more would make them financially well-off, while 64 percent of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 think $100,000 makes them well-off. Jump to those making $200,000 or more and just 42 percent think their salary makes them financially well-off, according to the survey.

It speaks to our need to always have more, more, more. You get a raise, you adjust your lifestyle to the salary, and then you need more, and in the process, you lose sight of what it means to be financially comfortable or having financial stability.

So perhaps we should aim for a different goal than being comfortable or well-off. We should really aim for financial security. Unless your income is truly below the poverty level, you should be making enough to be financially secure. It’s just a matter of making the right moves.

Here are five tips on how to become more financially secure this year:

1. Pay off your credit cards

The average family carries a whopping $15,191 in credit card debt, according to a recent Federal Reserve analysis, and the average interest rate is almost 15 percent. That’s thousands of dollars wasted on interest and unless you get rid of it, it will continue to haunt you. Before you can invest, you have to eliminate debt.

2. Create an emergency fund

Even if you’re still paying off credit card debt, the one place where you may want to sock away savings is an emergency fund, so that when an emergency occurs, you aren’t forced to reach for your credit card to cover it. Most financial planners recommend at least a three-month emergency fund, but if your job isn’t very secure, consider adding more.

3. Contribute to a retirement fund

If you’re not already contributing to a workplace retirement savings plan such as a 401k, start now. Even the smallest bit will help you down the road. A hypothetical $100 monthly contribution will be worth well over $100,000 in about 30 years, and that’s without an employer match. If you don’t have a retirement program through work, consider getting your own IRA or Roth IRA (and even if your employer does offer  one, there’s no reason you can’t have two retirement savings accounts).

4. Cut down on costs

One of my employees is currently saving for her first home. As part of the process, she’s gone through every recurring bill to find ways to save. She switched cell phone providers as soon as her contract was up and shaved her bill  in half. She cut cable, negotiated to keep her cheaper introductory rate on Internet service and signed up for a safe driving program with her car insurance that could save between 5 and 30 percent each month. All told, she’s saving hundreds of dollars a month? and the biggest sacrifice she had to make was a few minutes on the phone.

5. Practice self-control

Whenever I want to tighten my savings, I set a daily spending limit and don’t surpass it. Any day I stay  under, the money goes into a kitty and that allows me to make bigger purchases when necessary. It’s a simple, non-negotiable rule that will get you back into the savings mindset. Try it temporarily, at least.


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About Ilyce Glink

Author of 13 books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. Writer of the nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters.” Top-rated radio host in Atlanta. Writer for CBS MoneyWatch.com. Managing editor of the Equifax Personal Finance Blog.
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