Web resources can help you accomplish a financial fresh start for the new year
The new year is a great time for a fresh start. If you have questions and concerns about the way you’re handling money, make a personal commitment today to improve what you’re doing.
Do you find that you’re disappointed every year because you never seem to have enough money to do things that are important to you and your family? Start a tracking program to find out where your money is going. One of the best is the checkbook method for keeping track of checks, cash and credit purchases. The directions are simple and are available at the Montana State University Cooperative Extension publication site at www.montana.edu/wwwpb/pubs/mt8703.pdf. When you have a good idea of how you’re spending your money, develop a plan for the year and stick to it. The prize will be getting what you really want.
Are you troubled because your credit cards have big balances that you can’t seem to pay off? Check out the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets on credit on the Web at www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/09139.html. Call the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northern Colorado at 229-0695 for low-cost, confidential help to get out of credit crisis. Check them out at www.cccsnc.org. When you’ve paid off your debt, start saving the amount that has been going to debt payments.
Once you’re in charge of your spending, you’re ready to look at long-term opportunities. Do a net-worth statement this year – a simple and useful version can be found at Utah State University at www.usu.edu/flc/net_worth_statement.htm. Your job is to make your net worth grow every year. To do that, you’ll need to know about investing.
Here is a great resource to help you learn how to invest. The "Investing for Your Future" Web course, developed by a team of Cooperative Extension financial educators, is available to you for no charge 24 hours a day at www.investing.rutgers.edu/. Start this month and commit to doing one unit each week.
Retirement planning is essential in your financial plan. To get an idea of how much money you need to save to enjoy a life style similar to the way you’re living now, go to Colorado State University’s Financial Security in Later Life Web site at www.ext.colostate.edu/fsll/. The Excel planning tools are for people who have defined benefit plans as well as people who have defined contribution plans. This will give you an idea how much you need to save each month for your retirement. Many of you have matching contributions from employers – always take full advantage of these.
As much as we may hate to deal with paper, records are necessary. The biggest challenge is to have a system where you can find a record if you need it. Whoever organizes the system also needs to leave detailed instructions for others so they can locate records if necessary. Check out record-keeping suggestions at the North Dakota State Web site at www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/yf/fammgmt/he445w.htm.
Perhaps you’ve wondered about purchasing long-term care insurance. Access the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension fact sheet which helps you compare and make decisions about long-term care at www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/09152.html.
You know that a will is important, but if you’ve never gotten around to drawing up one for yourself, read Colorado State’s fact sheet, "How Property Passes At Death," at www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/09101.html. This fact sheet explains what happens to your money and assets if you do not have a will. Even young families need a will, especially to determine who would be responsible for children if both parents died in an accident. Another valuable Cooperative Extension fact sheet is titled, "Estate Planning for Parents of Young Children," at www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/09102.html.
You will find this column and many others archived at the Colorado State Cooperative Extension’s Web site at www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/columnym/ymmenu.html. You can just click on the Web sites to find the suggested information.
Happy New Year! Don’t try to do everything at once. Start gradually, and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll accomplish by Dec. 31, 2005.
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Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org