Now is a good time to take a look at your
financial situation and take any steps necessary
to ensure your financial health and long-term
prosperity. Here are the key aspects of your
financial life that you need to make sure are in

- Have a Savings Plan – You should be saving in a
systematic fashion. If you aren’t, start saving now,
regardless of the form or amount. Even if you don’t
think you can afford to put away much or are just start
starting out with a savings/checking account at your
local bank for five dollars a week, there is no time like
the present to do it. A little is always better than
nothing at all. Just to review the typical options open
to you:

Your 401k plan at work (if you have one). The rule is to
save at least the amount that is matched by your
employer. If they match 2% of your salary, then save at
least that. Of course, it is best to max the amount
saved to the plan limit, which can be no more than
$16.5K per law but may be lower as set by you
company’s plan.

An IRA, whether traditional or a Roth IRA, is another
tax deferred vehicle open to you, which you can have
in addition or instead of any 401k contributions. Of
course, you should make sure you have a 6-12 month
emergency cash fund. If not you may want to
emphasize regular savings over tax deferred savings
that cannot be touched without a penalty. For more
information please go to the
Retirement Planning

- Create a Budget – and live within the budget.
Carefully consider what you truly need in your life (in a
financial sense). Make a list and make sure your total
expenses are less than your take home pay after
savings. Make sure your monthly expenses are
properly aligned with your income. If not you must
change your situation. Most people can lower their
expenses to be lower than their income if they are truly
motivated. If not, it’s often a temporary situation that
can be alleviated by changes in employment or
lifestyle in the mid-term.  For more information please
go to the
Budgeting section.

- Make sure your Credit and debt situation is in order.
First check your credit report and FICO score. This
should be done once a year.  Make sure there are no
debts or credit lines showing for which you are not
responsible. Make sure all of the indications of
payment timeliness are accurate. If they are not
accurate, contact the appropriate credit reporting
agency and inform them of the mistake. This can be
done online and over the phone. They should be able
to correct within a few months.

If necessary, begin to take actions that will improve
your FICO/credit score. This includes paying down
your debt if necessary. In many cases this should take
priority over having an investment plan, as you may be
paying much more in interest on your credit cards than
you are earning on your investments. Ideally, you
would not want to have a debt to total credit limit ratio
of more than 35%. That is, of you have a total credit
limit on all of your credit cards of $10,000, you should
not have total credit card debt of more than $3,500. If
you are above this percent you should establish a
personal plan to steadily lower your debt. For more
information please go to this
Credit Cards article.

- Have an Investment plan. In addition to saving in a
tax-deferred account, you should have an overall
investment plan, if you have the funds to spare. Ideally,
you want to invest money in addition to what you have
saved through your 401K, etc. You’ll want to have
investments that are more liquid than a tax deferred
account. Your investment plan should define how
much money per period should be put into
investments in total. It should breakdown what percent
of your investments should go into various types
vehicles – asset allocation – how much in growth
stocks, how much income stocks, how much in bonds,
real estate and commodities. You should evaluate,
adjust and stick to this investment plan over the year.
For more information please go to the

Please see
Part 2 of  Financial Survival Guide for the
New Year. Things You Need To Do Now.  

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Your Financial Survival Guide. Things
You Need To Do Now. Part One.
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b) credit consolidation
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