by Jake Can Do
on June 27th, 2009
Creative types in advertising are known to be clueless when it come to money matters (yours truly included).
Here are some simple rules can help get your financial life back on the right track (via Your Credit Advisor).
The painfully obvious but never put into practice tips:
- Pay yourself first. Try to put away at least 10% of your pre-tax income into a savings account.
- Spend less than you earn. While this seems obvious, Americans are notorious for doing just the opposite. Stop spending and start saving.
- Pay your bills on time. Avoid needless late fees and know how much money you actually have.
- Avoid debt to the extent possible. Student loans and mortgages can be “good debt”, but even then, make paying them off a priority.
- Set a budget. And live by it. Use a computer program or just a paper and pencil. Whatever works.
- Set concrete goals. Know when you want to buy a new home, when you want to retire, and how much you are expecting each to cost you.
- Have an emergency fund. Have at least three months’ income (some say six) in a high-yield saving account that can be easily accessed.
- Buy a used car. The most expensive miles on a car are the first 10,000. Let someone else drive those for you. Buying used can save a lot of money considering how little value the car has actually lost.
- Be patient. Don’t buy that new gadget today. Wait a month or two and the price will certainly go down.
- Buy airline tickets as far in advance as possible. The cheapest flights are the ones the are bought at least two months in advance. For holiday travel especially, buy as soon as you can.
- Get the most bang for your airline miles. Be sure each airline mile you redeem is providing you with at least 1 cent toward the price of a ticket.
- Never buy the extended warranty. Often times, your new product already comes with a 90-day or 1-year warranty (when most “faulty” things will break, anyway). There’s a reason everyone wants to sell you an extended warranty: they’re hugely profitable (for the business, not for you).
- Make your own meals. Eating out gets to be expensive if you do it too often.
- Make your home more energy efficient. Bankrate.com has a list of 17 ways to do so.
- Get a better cell phone plan. If you’ve had the same cell phone plan for a couple of years, chances are there’s something better out there. Look around or call your current provider and ask for a better deal.
- Banking fees are for suckers. A lot of banks will charge you checking fees or minimum account balance fees. Find a bank that does not.
- Keep track of your spending. At least for a month, keep a journal of everything you purchase. At the end of the month, review your spending priorities and make adjustments.
- Ditch your car. Walk, bicycle, or take public transportation. You’ll save on car payments, gasoline, parking, and speeding tickets.
- Use your frequent flier miles often. They may expire before you know it. There’s no sense in stockpiling them. If you have enough for a free flight, use them.
- Buy through your favorite airline’s partners merchant store. AA.com, for instance, has multiple retail partners from whom you can earn frequent flier miles with each purchase.
- Negotiate fees. For example, ask a bank to waive late fees. Often enough, they will.
- Get your free money. Money might be owed to you. Get it.
- Be wary of mutual funds. Few mutual fund managers can beat both the market and the expense fee that they charge.
- Don’t try to pick stocks. Picking stocks can be a very dangerous game, unless you know what you’re doing.
- Avoid fees. With long term investing, fees are a primary factor in total return. Avoid brokers who take high commissions and avoid funds with high management costs.
- Stocks are high risk, high reward. Over the long term, stocks have historically outperformed all other investments. But over the short term, they can be risky if they lose a lot of value in a short period of time. So, do invest with stocks, but only with funds you won’t need to withdraw over the short term.
- Stocks first, bonds later. Invest in stocks when you’re young, and then move into bonds are you grow older. Stocks are a good long-term investment strategy. If you’re still young when the market turns south, you’ll have plenty of years left ahead of you to make it up. As you get older, invest in bonds. They’re less risky.
- Past performance is not a guarantee of future success. Just because a stock has been up for the last six months does not mean it will continue to go up tomorrow.
- Diversify your portfolio. Never invest more than 10% of your portfolio in any one company. Even if it’s a “sure thing”.
- Build a nest egg that is 25 times the annual investment income you need. Don’t think you can rely solely on social security.
- If you don’t understand how an investment works, don’t buy it. Research an investment vehicle thoroughly before you get into it.
- Invest for the long term. There is no such thing as a guaranteed get rich quick scheme. And in investing, there is no high reward without a high risk. Use caution and diversify your portfolio for the long run.
- Seek professional help. Don’t feel the need to turn yourself into a day trader. Hire a personal financial advisor if you can afford to.
- “Fee-only” is your friend. Go with a fee-only financial advisor, not a fee-based or a commission-based. Only fee-only advisors are legally obligated to act in your best interests.
- Index funds are your friend. Index funds are passively managed and are generally cheaper and more tax-efficient than actively managed funds.
Read more of 102 Financial Tips Your Professor Never Taught You.