Kick off the new year with this five-step financial wellness action plan. The best part? It’s easy!
1. Check Out Your Credit Report
Did you know that you can check out your credit report for free? Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can order your free credit report from the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) every 12 months at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
It’s a good idea to review your credit report every year. Credit report errors can damage your credit score and are more common than you might think — like accounts incorrectly reporting as late or reporting an account belonging to someone with a similar name. Plus, reviewing your report is a great way to catch the red flags of identity theft early.
2. Review Your Contact Information
Take a moment to review all your financial accounts and make sure your information is accurate. If you moved, changed your number or adopted a new primary email this past year, it’s important to make sure your information is current on all your accounts to ensure you don’t miss important notifications or tax forms, and to keep your info out of someone else’s hands.
3. Set Financial Goals
Your budget is your financial road map — a record of your income and expenses that helps you plan for the future and achieve your financial goals. SESLOC makes it easy with free Financial Tools in Online Banking, these financial tools help you get a handle on your finances with budgets and visualizations of where your money is going, debts and net worth.
Then, use your budget to plan your financial goals. Would you like to increase your emergency savings? Planning on buying a car after graduation, or due for a new set of tires soon? Are you hoping to take a vacation this summer?
Experts recommend making SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Determine how much you need to save and work your savings goals into your budget as monthly “payments” to yourself.
4. Get Rewarded
Did you know that SESLOC offers the only local checking account that earns rewards points on debit card purchases? Boost your purchasing power and earn points that you can redeem gift cards, gas, merchandise and more. Or enroll in Pay With Points* to redeem your points for a statement credit covering qualifying purchases.
5. Start Thinking About Retirement
Yes, retirement. While you’re still in college, it’s never too early to start planning your retirement.
Even if you only put a little bit of money away right now, it makes a huge difference down the road. This is because of a little magic called compound interest — where you earn interest on interest. Over time, it really adds up.
If you’re earning income, you’re eligible to open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Traditional IRA contributions are “pre-tax,” or tax deferred, and ROTH IRAs are funded with “post-tax” dollars.
Your employer may also offer retirement plans — such as a 401(k). You’ll allocate a percentage of your paycheck, either pre- or post-tax, to be automatically set aside. Many employers offer matching funds, where they will contribute to your fund when you do. The employer’s match is essentially “free” money based on a vesting period, which means their portion becomes “yours” over a set period contingent on your employment. If you change jobs, you have a few options for your account, such as rolling it over into your new employer’s plan, or into your IRA.
*See Pay With Points terms, conditions, restrictions and eligibility at sesloc.org.