4 money strategies to help improve your finances

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Take charge of your finances with the four simple steps below. (iStock)

Having an organized and growing financial profile is a goal everyone should have. But figuring out where to start can be tricky without some guidance.

A solid financial plan factors in both your day-to-day money management, as well as long-term goals. If you’re ready to get your finances on track, the expert-approved strategies below can help.

  1. Opening a high-yield savings account
  2. Debt consolidation
  3. Using a budgeting tool
  4. Getting started on your retirement savings

1. Opening a high-yield savings account

One of the first steps to improving your finances is building an emergency fund to provide you with accessible cash in case the unexpected arises.

An online high-yield savings account is a great place to stash your emergency fund, offering penalty-free access to your money and an APY that’s more competitive than traditional savings accounts.

May Jiang, CFP®, CPA and founder of Jiang CPA Consulting, recommends building an emergency fund to cover at least three to six months and storing it in a high-yield savings account or money market account.

Beefing up your savings can give you peace of mind and keep you from having to borrow money if an emergency occurs. Putting your emergency funds in a high-yield savings account is even better, as your money earns interest.

Visit Credible to explore high-yield savings options that could be making more money for you.

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2. Debt consolidation

In addition to amping up savings, getting your debt under control is crucial to improving your financial health.

“If you have consumer debts, especially those on high-interest credit cards,” Jiang advises, “you want to consolidate it and renegotiate the repayment amount and interest rate.”

Consolidation rolls multiple debts into a single loan, ideally at a lower interest rate, to help you pay off your debts more quickly and at a better rate. 

Jiang also recommends periodically checking with your lender or financial adviser about refinancing for a lower rate on debts like car loans, student loans or mortgages.

If you would like to get a sense of what debt consolidation loans are available to you, visit Credible to compare rates and lenders.

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3. Using a budgeting tool

Having a budget is key to any successful financial plan. Tracking what you earn and how you spend can help you improve habits and reach your financial goals more quickly.

To build your budget, you can use anything from a budgeting app to a spreadsheet to a pen and paper.

According to Jiang, here’s how to build a basic budget: “Organize your cash inflows (wages and bonuses) and outflows (fixed and variable expenses) on a weekly or monthly basis.”

“If you have a positive cash inflow,” she suggests, “use it to pay down some debt faster or increase your investment portfolio. If your cash flow is negative, you might want to reduce your expenses, especially discretionary expenses.”

Seeing all of your discretionary spending and bills laid out before you can highlight changes that need to be made, like cutting out unnecessary subscriptions or reevaluating your student loan repayment plan. Visit Credible to learn more and explore your student loan refinancing options.

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4. Getting started on your retirement savings

A strong financial plan should factor in the future, not just the present. If you haven’t already, start investing towards your retirement goals.

While it’s never too late to start saving for retirement, the sooner you start, the more significant the rewards will be.

Jiang emphasizes the benefits of compounding interest over an extended period of time with an example: “If you save $6,000 a year, which is $115.38 a week, and invest it in a diversified index fund, you could end up with $1M after 30 years.”

There are several types of retirement accounts to choose from, each with its own tax rules, eligibility requirements and contribution limits. 

And many employers offer to match a percentage of your annual contribution. To make saving for retirement easier, Jiang recommends setting up automatic paycheck deductions that fund your retirement account.

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Improve your finances today

Getting your finances in order might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.

No matter how limited or advanced your personal finance expertise is, there are simple steps you can take today to improve your finances.

Carve out some time to break down your budget and see where your finances currently sit. From there, you can identify your goals and how best to reach them.

In addition to a budget, your financial plan should include an emergency fund, a retirement strategy and a path to repaying any outstanding debts.

If you’re interested in consolidating or refinancing debt, it can help to have experienced loan officers on your side. Visit Credible to get all your loan consolidation and refinancing questions answered. And to see how high-yield savings accounts can save you money, check out these high-yield savings options via the Credible marketplace to save extra cash.

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Have a finance-related question, but don’t know who to ask? Email The Credible Money Expert at moneyexpert@credible.com and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.