Mississippi Money: Your Financial Homework
By Ryder Taff
Heading back to school means new schedules and new routines, but perhaps the most noticeable change emerges with the return of homework. Homework helps your children practice their lessons by committing what they have learned to memory. Just like your child’s reading skills and math abilities are strengthened through homework, your financial habits require similar attention through practice and repetition.
Here are a few practices you should adopt as your financial homework assignments:
Every Day – Focus on your spending. Every time you pull out your wallet, take a three second break to reflect on your purchase. Note what your spending options were and what your expectations are. This small step will go a long way to helping you be a more conscientious spender and ultimately give you more control over your money.
Every Month – Check your statements. Pull out all of your bills and statements and do a quick scan for unusual purchases or surprisingly large charges. If you need to contest any charges, tackle that immediately. After your first scan, take a look at your spending and note each charge. What did you spend the most on last month? Are the purchases you made living up to their expectations?
If you have money left over at the end of the month, transfer it to a saving account that is just out of reach of being spent immediately.
Quarterly/Semi-Annually – Monitor your credit. There are more and more services available for checking your credit score every day. I recommend sticking with a service you already use, such as you bank or credit card company. Free services offered may exploit your very personal financial information for their own marketing gain. Take some time to look at any outstanding debts you have. If you have a good credit score, you may be able to lower your interest rate or get more favorable repayment terms.
Once a year – Look at your whole financial picture. If you work with an advisor, gather up all of your financial statements and head to her office. You will want to review your financial goals (Vacations! Education! Financial Independence!) to see if you are on track. While the market will fluctuate, your financial plan shouldn’t waver – disciplined saving and prudent investing to reach your goals.
Good financial habits are not an innate gift. It takes practice, discipline and some gentle nudging to stay on the right path. Keeping up with your homework will ensure that your goals are met and you too are a star student.