3 tips for financial success in 2020. Make improving your financial wellness and preparing for an economic downturn a top priority this year, here’s why. 

How Are Your Personal Finances Doing? How Much Have They Changed Over the Past 10 Years?

Overall, average income hasn’t increased much over the past ten years, while home values in many parts of the country have soared. Consumers are carrying the most credit card debt ever, and student loan debt has been growing dramatically, especially for borrowers in their 50s and 60s.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, just 40 percent of Americans have $400 in the bank for emergencies. Rising healthcare costs have put added pressure on consumers. LIMRA’s Secure Retirement Institute (SRI) notes that just 44 percent of Americans believe their Social Security check, pension and retirement savings will cover their expenses in retirement. 

Why are so many people struggling in what is arguably the best economy in a decade? Part of the answer is incomes haven’t gone up that much over the past 20 years. In 2016, U.S. median income was just over $59,000, or a few dollars over median income in 2000, on an inflation-adjusted basis. 

Wage increases and lower tax rates haven’t come close to making up for increases in living expenses, health care cost increases and education expenses. Financial illiteracy runs rampant. 

Meeting the Demand for Financial Wellness

Employers are finally recognizing the cost of having employees who are financially stressed, and providing financial wellness assistance above and beyond having a 401k plan. Ilyce has seen tremendous growth and maturity in the financial wellness benefits space, with employers adding sophisticated platforms with artificial intelligence, financial education, student loan debt repayment, micro-loans and even ways to get an advance on pay (which, while far from ideal, is still better than using a payday lender or borrowing against 401k savings). 

The good news is that there is new research showing Gen-Z is aware of what they don’t know and is making saving a priority. Millennials, despite having the most student loan and credit card debt, are starting to buy homes. 

3 Tips for Financial Success in 2020

The bottom line is that every little bit of savings helps. So, as we move into 2020, and everyone heads back to the gym and goes back on their diets, here are some personal financial resolutions you might want to make, especially if we enter an economic downturn:

1. Spend Less – and Track It for Financial Success in 2020

Do you know how much you spend each month? Write down every cent you spend. You can keep track online, in an excel spreadsheet or in a little notebook. Don’t forget to factor in all of those recurring expenses, like your online accounts, and also things you may only pay annually, like insurance premiums. We guarantee that you’re spending more than you think, and wasting dollars (not just cents) on items that don’t matter in the long or short run. And, if you have a coffee habit, know that your $5 per day habit translates into more than $1,800 per year. Cigarettes and marijuana (where legal) might cost you double that.

2. Save More – and Track This Too for Financial Success in 2020

No matter how much you’ve socked away, you should make a plan to save more. We’ve made a habit of saving an average of 20 percent of our salaries for the past 20 years. How did we do it? A few simple tricks: Do more yourself instead of hiring others (including yard work and, where possible, home repairs); Eat-in instead of going out; and, shopping around. Whether you’re buying a home in 2020, saving for your kids’ college tuitions, or just bolstering your retirement savings, having more cash on hand gives you options. And, whenever the next recession hits, you’ll be grateful for every penny.

3. Pay Down as Much Debt as You Can for Financial Success in 2020

If you’re buying a home, you’ll want to eliminate as much debt as possible. Mortgage lenders require borrowers follow strict rules regarding debt-to-income ratios, you’ll need to focus on your debt repayment strategy. Be smart about the debt you carry, and try to “snowball” your debts by paying off the smallest debt first and then adding that amount to the next smallest debt once it’s gone. And if you already own a home, try prepaying your mortgage. Nothing feels as good as knowing your home is all paid off and you can redirect those payments somewhere else. (And, you’ll be amazed how much better you’ll sleep at night once your debt is paid down.) 

Just remember: Financial wellness is all about building a foundation of financial stability, with good money habits that will last you a lifetime. Happy New Year!

Next up: home buyer resolutions.

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