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Winning Habits for Financial Fitness

Winning Habits for Financial Fitness

Just as physical vitality requires a nutritious diet and regular exercise, achieving financial fitness also demands deliberate action and conscious choices. And while external factors like the economy and market volatility are beyond your control, a number of healthy habits and smart strategies can empower you to keep your personal finances in peak condition. Consider these steps to build up your monetary muscle and assert greater agency over your financial future. 

Make a Game Plan 

Financial fitness doesn’t require you to set foot on a treadmill. Actually, it all begins with a pen and paper (or keyboard and screen). Studies show that the act of writing down your aspirations can actually increase your chances of success by a staggering 42%. So craft a plan that’s realistic but also aligns with what you ultimately want to derive from your financial life — and refer your playbook to guide your decision making. 

Recruit Great Coaches  

Teams rely on top coaches to have a winning season. And you don’t have to get financially fit alone. Just as you might hire a personal trainer to help you build muscle or a nutritionist to overhaul your diet, there are a variety of financial pros who can help you improve different areas of your fiscal health. These might include a financial advisor, an accountant or CPA, a lawyer, an insurance agent and even your personal banker. 

Play the Long Game 

In the end, financial fitness is about identifying — and achieving — your long-term goals, so it’s important to pay yourself first. Treat emergency savings and retirement funds as top priorities in your monthly budget. Automate retirement savings by electing to put a certain amount of each paycheck in your employer-sponsored 401(k). 

Don’t Go Out of Bounds on Budget 

Financially fit individuals live within their means whenever possible. Whether you earn a more modest income or command a substantial salary, prioritize expenses and avoid unnecessary spending to secure your financial wellness. Surprisingly, 40% of people earning more than $100,000 a year in the U.S. find themselves living paycheck to paycheck. Keeping a close eye on expenditures is a key habit across all income brackets.  

Play Defense by Diversifying 

The old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” holds true for your nest egg too. Diversifying your investments across different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds and cash equivalents and also within each class can help mitigate risks from a number of economic conditions. A well-diversified financial portfolio is often recommended to play defense against economic and market uncertainty.  

Huddle up Regularly  

When working toward financial fitness, it’s important to review your investments, budget, credit report, taxes, debts and insurance at least annually or whenever your situation changes significantly. This might include a job change, marriage, medical crisis or even a bonus or raise. That way, you can make any needed adjustments to your financial game plan. 

Get Your Game Face On 

While it’s never too late to start making improvements in your personal finances, the sooner you begin the better — because the game clock is already running. A good starting point is to make an appointment with a qualified financial professional and set your sights on the finish line. 

Mind Hacks to Help You Save

Mind Hacks to Help You Save

Even with the best of intentions, many of us find ourselves swiping our debit card or clicking “buy now,” then wishing we had that money back later. When you’re trying to increase your savings, some of the biggest obstacles to progress can be found within yourself. Fortunately, a few simple mind hacks can turn the tables on unhelpful financial habits.

Make It Harder to Spend

Every day, we encounter many opportunities — and lots of encouragement — to spend money. Advertisements urge us to purchase, online shopping makes it instant and delivery services make it convenient. One of the keys to saving, for many, is removing temptation, which means knowing your triggers. If you thirst for thrift, stay out of your usual bargain-hunting grounds and avoid the discount aisle at all costs. Also steer clear websites with deal countdowns and other pressures to “buy now.” Shop with a list, and stick to it.

You also may need to explore your feelings around spending. Studies show that we often spend more when we’re stressed. So if you engage in too much retail therapy, set yourself up for success by choosing a relaxing, free activity like reading a book, meditating or taking a walk instead. Shopping with cash rather than credit can also help put the brakes on instant gratification — plus, you’re forced to stop when your wallet is empty. And even waiting 24 hours after first spotting something temping can help you figure out if you really want or need it — or if it was merely the urge to splurge.

Make It Easier to Save

Simplifying your savings routine and minimizing obstacles can also be helpful. A lot of the time, the way we save money is through an active process — we go over our accounts and set aside a certain amount each cycle. Try making saving automatic instead. Start by setting up auto-deposits into your savings account and have contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited into your employer-sponsored retirement account.

Make Saving More Rewarding Than Spending

If you’re the competitive type, sometimes a little challenge can be just what you need to get into a money-saving mindset. Setting savings goals and visualizing them with a vision board, spreadsheet or chart can help keep you motivated. Or turn savings into a game. One study by the financial assistance nonprofit Commonwealth showed that people who used a gamified savings app that lets them complete challenges and earn badges saved 25% more than others.

Hack Your Habits

Saving money is a gradual and lifelong process — and it takes commitment and consistency. No matter what strategies and hacks you choose to help you save, the best thing you can do to increase your savings is whatever you’ll stick to. Find the methods that work for you, and over time you’ll be able to hack your mindset, build good financial habits and reboot your savings.



You’re Behind on Your Retirement Savings — Now What?

You’re Behind on Your Retirement Savings — Now What?

Are you looking to secure a comfortable retirement but dealing with a 401(k) balance that’s behind schedule? Whether youre just starting out or have been steadily contributing without hitting your savings goals, there are ways to give your balance a boost even if youre nearing retirement age. With some smart strategies, you can fortify your 401(k) and make steady progress on securing a sound financial future.   

Crank up Contributions 

In 2023, you can contribute up to $22,500 to your 401(k). For those 50 and older, the maximum allowance increases to $30,000that’s an additional $7,500 for “catch-up” contributions, which can help older workers fill any retirement fund gaps. But if maxing out all at once isnt in your budget, increase contributions annually by 1% until you hit your limit. And if your employer provides a match, try to increase your contributions to qualify for the maximum match as quickly as you can.  

Supplement Your Savings 

Amplifying your savings by funding some additional types of accounts can provide an extra cushion to help you retire comfortably. A health savings account (HSA), for example, can be a great way to supplement your retirement savings because it comes with a triple tax advantage: Contributions are made on a pre-tax basis, the interest and earnings are not taxed and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are also tax-free. For additional retirement funds beyond annual 401(k) limits, you can also consider opening a traditional or Roth IRA especially if you have a side hustle or part-time job to help fund contributions. 

Ferret out Found Money 

If youve changed jobs and left your 401(k) behind, tracking down those funds and rolling them into your current plan could give you a more complete picture of your retirement savings. Even if you dont have contact information for your old plan sponsor, you still may be in luck. The Secure Act 2.0 of 2022 establishes plans for a future government-maintained “lost and found” database for retirement plans to help workers find and access their old accounts. 

Rethink Your Retirement Residence 

If youre significantly behind on retirement savings, you may need to rethink your plans a little. Maybe a waterfront beach house isnt in the cards, but a cozy condo thats a short drive to the boardwalk may still be within reach. It might be necessary to adjust your goals and expectations a bit to align with your current financial situation. But if youre dead set on your destination, you could also plan to work a little longer or bring in some extra income to make your retirement dreams a reality. 

Plan for Tomorrow, but Remember to Enjoy Today 

Regardless of how you try to increase your savings, its important that your strategy is something you can stick with and appropriate for your retirement time horizon. Avoid making excessively risky investments in an attempt to make up for a late start or insufficient contributions. Also, keep quality of life in mind youre trying to retire comfortably, but enjoying life now matters too. Pick areas in your budget to pull back, but dont cut back on all the things you like doing.  

A trusted financial professional can help you home in on a personalized approach that works for you and your goals. Your golden years will be here before you know it, so get your retirement plan on track today. 


Teaching Kids About Money

Teaching Kids About Money

Understanding the concept and value of money is an important life skill that can help set kids up for financial success long into their adult lives. However, financial education is not always covered extensively in school curriculums. But parents can do a lot to help ensure their children learn important lessons about money early on. 

Fortunately, the learning process does not have to be boring or difficult. In fact, it can be fun and engaging for kids from grade school to high school.  

Make it relatable. A wonderful way to illustrate money concepts to kids is by using real-life examples and situations that are familiar to them. For instance, when grocery shopping, you can explain the importance of comparing prices on boxes of their favorite cereals to help them understand whether Peanuty Puffy Puffs or Choco Cowabunga Crunch is a better bargain.  

Tangible teaching tools. With younger children, it can be especially helpful to use physical objectslike coins, piggy banks, or their own toys to bring financial lessons to life. You could put the actual money in front of different items like a teddy bear and a board game, for example, and ask them which one costs the most or the least.   

Gifts that keep on giving. Allowances, birthday, or holiday gifts can also be a fantastic opportunity to introduce kids to the concept of saving money. Encourage them to put aside some of their gift money to buy something they really want, like a toy or game. Then show them ways they can track their progress and celebrate the achievement with them when they meet their savings goal.  

Learning while earning. For older kids, money earned through an allowance, babysitting, lawn mowing, or part-time job experiences can be a fantastic opportunity for early financial education. And when your child starts bringing home a paycheck, you can teach them about taxes and budgeting.  

Teaching your teens. As your child enters their later teenage years, they may face new financial challenges, like paying for car costs. You can help by teaching them about budgeting for recurring expenses such as gas, insurance, and maintenance when they get their license. And if they are planning on college, you can discuss the importance of managing debt responsibly and the potential long-term financial consequences of carrying student loans. 

Start Early with WellCents Kids and Teens 

Instructing your kids about money can help set them up for a brighter financial future, so begin the conversation early. If you are looking for additional resources, WellCents Kids and WellCents Teens videos, available on YouTube, are an excellent place to start. These informative videos cover topics like budgeting, saving and smart shopping — and are presented in a fun, accessible way. By using these resources, kids can begin to develop important financial skills that can benefit them throughout their lives. 


Beat These 5 Budget Busters

Beat These 5 Budget Busters

It happened again. You started the month determined to keep spending within your budget, only to come up short on contributions to your retirement and other savings.  

How can this be? 

Many factors can steer you off course on monthly spending, but a few particularly common culprits are often to blame. Here are five budget busters and some smart strategies to beat them.  

1. Subscription Services 

Premium sports and movie channels are great fun, but subscription creep is common as more channels join your viewing rotation, monthly charges increase over time and free trial periods quietly end.  

Smart savings strategy. Cut back channels to just your favorites. Avoid in-app purchases and only watch shows included in your programming package. When possible, replace premium services with free or lower cost, ad-supported plans.  

2. Unexpected Repairs 

Things break thats life. Computers crash, TVs stop working, appliances wear out, cars break down and phones get dropped. And it can be hard to stay on budget when they do unless you take steps to prepare. 

Smart savings strategy. You cant expect things to never go wrong, but you can establish an emergency fund of at least three-to-six months of expenses for when they do. Good maintenance habits can also help minimize repairs. And be sure to take advantage of any purchase protection that might be available for items bought with your credit card. 

3. The Urge to Splurge 

Weve all walked out of the grocery withextraswe didnt plan on buying or come home from the mall with a new sweater that was too good a deal to pass up or given into the desire for a pricey mochaccino at the coffee shop. While occasional indulgences are rarely problematic, frequent ones can add up. 

Smart savings strategy. Bring a list to the store and avoid recreational shopping. And dont grocery shop when youre hungry — going to the supermarket with an empty stomach increases the chances that you’ll leave with a loaded cart. Spend cash to help keep credit card balances under control and set limits for online shopping (its just too easy toclick to buy). If a purchase is beckoning you, consider layaway or wait to see if the urge passes. 

4. Dining out 

Eating at restaurants is a treat, but it can be easy to spend more than you intended. If your monthly restaurant tab is starting to look more like a car payment, there are things you can do to prevent your favorite eatery from taking too big a bite out of your budget. 

Smart savings strategy. Limit eating out to once or twice a week or month, depending on your budget. Instead of fine dining, try informal, less expensive bistro meals. Alcohol adds a lot to the check, so limit consumption when dining out. Split a meal or have an appetizer instead of an entree. Look for early bird or happy hour specials and swap out a steak splurge for a less expensive pasta dish. 

5. Delivery Fees 

You can get almost anything delivered today, from cat food to a new car. But convenience can come at a hefty price. Whether for meals, clothing or other online purchases, delivery services can make everything you buy more expensive.  

Smart savings strategy. Drive to the store instead of paying delivery fees and forgo rush shipping. Dont fork over hard-earned cash for meal delivery services, which often dont even include tipping the driver. Eat in more or use convenient curbside pickup instead. 

And Most Importantly … 

Whatever you do, theres one way to prevent budget busters from derailing your retirement or other savings plans and thats to pay yourself first. Having retirement plan contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck is an effortless way to accomplish that. Put your financial future at the top of your budget each month to help ensure you can always afford what matters most. 

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