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Save Smarter: Get Financially Fit for 2019

Make these four financial resolutions now to start your year off strong. 

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

It’s January and the gyms are full—we hope you’re making good progress on your new year’s wellness resolutions so far. But there’s another type of fitness you should also be focusing on at the start of 2019: your financial fitness. Flex your money muscles for the new year with these goals. 

1. Strengthen your savings. If you don’t currently have an emergency savings fund—or you do but it’s looking a bit scrawny—this needs to be a top priority. Many financial experts recommend stashing three to six months’ worth of necessary expenses in your emergency fund. It’s best to keep this money separate from your checking account. Once you have several thousand saved, consider depositing your emergency funds into a money market account, where you’ll earn more interest without sacrificing instant access to your savings. 

2. Beef up your credit. Many of your long-term financial goals will depend on this, so make sure your credit is in good shape. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) once every 12 months via the federally authorized website annualcreditreport.com, and the start of the new year is a perfect time to do so. Scan your report for discrepancies and signs of identity theft. If your credit isn’t as good as you’d like, take steps to improve it, such as getting your credit card balances below 30 percent of your total available credit. 

3. Burn fat from your budget. Take a close look at your spending and you’ll likely find areas that could use a slim down. Budgeting apps like Mint.com, Goodbudget.com, and Youneedabudget.com make it easy to track spending on your smartphone, or good old-fashioned spreadsheets work just as well. Another trick to try is starting the new year with a month-long cash diet, which means taking out a set amount of cash each week and using it to pay for everything other than monthly bills (no swiping plastic allowed). Just like at the gym, exercising your budget works best when you have a specific goal, so visualize what you’ll do with the extra money you save—whether that’s paying off high-interest debt or treating yourself to a tropical vacation. 

4. Set the pace for retirement. By looking at your current retirement savings and considering how many years you have until your target date, you’ll get an idea of whether you’re running a marathon or a sprint at this point. If your retirement savings are a little behind where they should be, it might be time to start pushing yourself a little harder. Consider your age and risk tolerance when determining how aggressive you’d prefer to be with your retirement accounts, and aim for a good mix of stocks, bonds, and share certificates. It’s always wise to speak with a financial advisor about your specific situation. 

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.