Entries in Finances (5)


S.M.A.R.T. Ways to Increase Your Personal Savings

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you find yourself already falling behind your New Year’s resolution to put yourself in better financial shape this year, you’re not alone.

Saving money and making smart financial decisions are attainable goals but, more often than not, people fall short and end up having trouble making ends meet.

Fortunately, there are smart and easy steps you can take to get your financial life back on track.

Alexa Von Tobel, founder of LearnVest, a financial and money-management site geared towards women, spoke with ABC News about her site’s S.M.A.R.T. money management program.

Von Tobel says using the five steps -- Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely -- outlined below will increase your savings and empower you financially.

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S -- SPECIFIC.  Make specific goals with your financial resolutions.  Von Tobel says to look three to five years into your future to figure out what you are trying to achieve.   Are you trying to save for a home, or a child, for example, or maybe just a specific amount of money?

“Back into what you need to achieve this year in order to get there, and then come up with one specific number,” Von Tobel says.  “Create a specific number and know it.”

M -- MEASURABLE.  Von Tobel says it’s important to make your goal(s) measurable and to narrow them into smaller, or what she calls, “micro goals.”  If you want to save $10,000 this year, for example, you need to save about $1,000 per month.

“Make smaller numbers that you can measure so that every single month you can know where you’re achieving and know that you have very simple smaller numbers that you can use to measure progress,” she says.

A -- ATTAINABLE.  This step is crucial for setting expectations and ensuring that you know the steps you need to take to achieve your savings goal(s).

“If you are making these goals, I want you to figure out how you’re going to attain them,” Von Tobel says.  “I want you to step back and say, ‘If I’m trying to save that $10,000, where am I going to cut it from my budget?”  Am I going to save an extra $200 per week, and how is that going to happen?’”

R -- REALISTIC.  This fourth step is an important aspect in setting expectations for yourself so you don’t set goals that are not achievable and then abandon them completely when they’re not met.

“If you go through and realize that there’s just no chance that you can save $10,000 and the number is more like $5,000 this year, then set a realistic goal,” Von Tobel advises.

T --  TIMELY. This final step requires that you set mini check-ins for yourself and your goals, and is the most important of the five steps, according to Von Tobel.

“If you’re trying to save $10,000 this year, what do you need to do every single two weeks, or what do you need to do every single month?” she says.  “Set a number that you’re trying to achieve and check in with it.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio



Devise a Plan and Prepare Yourself for Financial Uncertainty

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For nearly four years, consumer confidence in the economy has been well below the historic average.  With a weak jobs market, high gas prices, and the rising cost of food, it's hardly surprising.

So what's the first rule of thumb in these uncertain times?

"Everyone should have a financial plan of some sort," says financial planning expert Keith Brannan of Country Financial.  "You should know what things could financially get your life off-track."

And for those who aren't as money savvy, simply going online and doing searches of personal finance terms can help you beef up on your knowledge.

Brannan advises, "You can type in 401(k)s or IRA information."

Over the past three years, Brannan notes, people have reset their spending behavior to cope with the financial uncertainty.

"People have redone their financial plans multiple time during this period of time," he says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Broken Piggy Bank: 'Leaky' 401(k)s Worry Congress

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Americans in record numbers are raiding their 401(k)s, depleting their retirement savings to compensate for paychecks and mortgage equity lost to the recession. As employers and savings plan providers struggle to stem the outflow of money, two senators have introduced legislation that would make it both harder for employees to dip into company-sponsored retirement savings and easier to repay their borrowings.

The SEAL Act (Savings Enhancement by Alleviating leakage in 401(k) Savings) introduced by Senators Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., would reduce to three the number of loans an employee could take against a 401(k). Savers currently can take as many loans as they think they can handle -- or as many as their employer may permit.

The bill would ban products that promote savings depletion, such as debit cards linked to 401(k)s, and it would make it easier for consumers to repay monies borrowed.

According to a new study by consultants Aon Hewitt, some 28 percent of active participants in 401(k) plans had an outstanding loan in 2010, up from 22 percent in 2005.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Avoid the Headache: Discuss Finances with Your Partner

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Managing your money can be a tall order for couples, especially when they disagree on spending priorities.

Couples who talk about family finances are far less likely to have misunderstandings.

Personal finance experts Melissa and Daniel Garcia say a useful tip is to set "aside a specific time of the month that you sit down and talk to your spouse."

"Write down what your goals are for the budget.  What your dreams are," Daniel Garcia says.

"It only takes 10 or 15 minutes to talk about that week's finances, what's coming up, what bills need to be paid," says Melissa Garcia.

And to get the most out of your talks, make sure to be honest about how you handle money.

"You need to find out not just your strengths but also your weaknesses," she says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Race and Recession: Poll Finds Those Hardest Hit Most Optimistic

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A new poll suggests that Hispanics and African Americans hardest hit by the recession are the most optimistic about their futures.

The new Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University poll found that African Americans are especially confident about their future finances compared to whites. Hispanics, although at a lesser level, are also more optimistic than whites following the economic downturn.

The survey found that although whites, on average, felt more secure with their finances than African Americans or Hispanics, their view of the nation's economic prospects was worse.

Twenty-three percent of whites said they were pessimistic about their futures, compared to 10 percent of African Americans.

Two-thirds of Hispanics said they believed they could get ahead with hard work, while just over half believed their financial situation would improve in the next year. A majority of African Americans, 62 percent, also believed their prospects would improve in the near future, compared to just 36 percent of whites.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio