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Ten Things to Stop Doing in this NEW YEAR

Think about some things you need to stop doing this NEW YEAR versus things you need to do. While you're at it, take some time during this holiday season to reflect on how you're doing financially and how your finances are going to help you get what you want out of life. Have a joyful and prosperous New Year.

  1. Stop spending more than you make :-

    Old is Gold for this year and coming year too. Many time you hear from your Grandpa or Dad or Guardians that "Spend lesser than you earn" an old suggestion. It's really the key step in moving forward to achieve your financial and life goals. You have a limited amount of income that you can allocate between current consumption, investing for future goals and perhaps paying for past consumption. If you keep spending more than you make you're limiting your choices in the future.

  2. Stop counting on Social Security :-

    This one's not for current retirees or for people near retirement. It's for people who are early on in their working careers or mid-career. It's not meant to be alarmist, but employers and the federal govt are providing incentives for you to save for retirement for a reason. If your employer matches all or part of your contributions to a retirement plan, you should strive to contribute up to the limit of that match. Check out the new Roth 401(k) available in this "New Year". Start building a retirement war chest you're going to need it.

  3. Stop identity theft :-

    The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act gives you the right to a free copy of your credit report once each year from the three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Rotate through the firms during the year by requesting a credit report every four months. Our site feature, "How to get your free credit report," provides the contact and other require information. Shred your unneeded financial documents.

  4. Stop leaving checks in your mailbox :-

    Every time you put the little red flag up on a mailbox is an invitation for someone other than the mail carrier to pick up the mail. Take extra step in mailing your letters in to mail box provided by American Postal Service. But between identity theft issues and check washing schemes, you really don't want to take the risk.

    With first class postage going to 39 cents effective Jan. 8, you may decide that 2006 is your year to join the next century and pay bills over the Internet using your financial institution's bill-paying service. You should stop leaving checks in your mailbox.

  5. Stop living paycheck to paycheck :-

    There are plenty of divergent opinions as to how much you should have set aside in cash reserves as an emergency fund. An emergency fund is a buffer to tide you over during a period of financial troubles. Not living paycheck to paycheck means that you have a liquidity cushion when it comes to meeting your day-to-day expenses. Get away from the point where you're one paycheck away from financial disaster by adding some liquidity to your financial picture.

  6. Stop phishing :-

    The spam filter must be doing its job -- but you need to be vigilant about how you share your personal information on the Internet. Phishing is an Internet scam that uses spam or pop-up messages to trick you into disclosing your bank account, credit cards, Social Security number, personal identification numbers, or PINs, birth date, mothers maden name or other financially sensitive information. It's a fairly insidious attempt at identity theft.

    When in doubt about a request for information, go to the Web site on your own and look for commentary or discussion about a phishing scam. Never click through on the links in the message. The FTC has a guide that provides some tips about protecting yourself against phishing trips. See some of tips to protect your self from Identity Theft

    Phishing :- Thieves send you an email that appears to be from your bank or Internet service provider linking you to a phony website which asks that you verify personal information or input your password. Don't respond in any way; financial service companies, banks and Internet service providers never ask you for information in this manner. Instead call the company to verify the email is genuine.

  7. Stop running up credit card balances :-

    Deficits matter -- especially personal spending deficits. Credit Card Interest rates have headed higher over the past 2 years with the Federal Reserve raising the targeted federal funds rate by a quarter 13% times in the last 13 Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meetings. The WSJ Prime Rate is now at 7.25%, up from 5.25% a year ago.

    Variable-rate credit cards are typically tied to the prime rate. Fixed rate credit card rates tend to lag these changes, but a fixed rate isn't a lifetime commitment, and you can expect these rates to trend higher too.

  8. Stop using variable rate debt :-

    Don't just stop using variable rate debt, but reconsider how you're using variable rate debt. The interest rates on the home equity lines of credit, or HELOC, adjustable-rate mortgages and variable rate credit cards keep moving higher. While Fed watchers hypothecate that we're getting pretty close to the end of a Fed tightening cycle, that doesn't mean that we're looking at the Fed starting a cycle of easier money any time soon.

    Fixed-rate mortgages tend to move with changes in the 10-year U.S. Treasury note. That yield has been fairly range bound between 4% and 5% since the Fed started tightening. Sure, 30-year fixed rate mortgages are over 6%, but they've been fairly range bound too, staying between 5.5 % and 6.375% over that same time period.

    If you plan on being in your house for a while and are currently in an adjustable-rate mortgage, interest-only mortgage or have a HELOC outstanding, think through the costs of refinancing versus continuing to take on the interest rate risk with variable rate debt.

  9. Stop the status quo :-

    If not being able to decide what mutual fund to invest in is keeping you from contributing to a retirement account, then find a way to get past that obstacle. If you already have an investment portfolio, review your holdings and decide if you need to rebalance or reallocate the portfolio to bring it in line with your attitude towards risk and your investment goals.

    Find your way around the obstacles that are keeping you from your goals. If you're spending more than you make, put together a spending plan. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, try to build some liquidity. When you can't figure out how to get around a roadblock, ask for help. Whether it's a financial planner, fitness trainer, motivational coach or trusted friend, a fresh set of eyes and ears can help you see your way past the obstacle and put you on track to meet your goals.

  10. Stop missing out on smelling the roses :-

    Easier said than done, I know, but there's more to life than working to pay the bills. Find a way to put joy in your life if it's missing or add to your joy if it's not. People make New Year's resolutions because they're hopeful as to what the New Year will bring. Go beyond fitness and finances to figure out what you want out of life and work towards it.


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