Author: Dave Ramsey
Humans are nothing if not forgetful. We have great intentions, but it’s easy to lose sight of our money goals from time to time if we’re not careful. Instead of giving up, give your money memory (and your bank account) a boost. Think of these numbers as a friendly reminder to keep on going.
Before paying down debts, be sure to cover your Four Walls: food, clothing, shelter and utilities, and transportation. Use the debt snowball to gain some serious traction, but always take care of your own household first.
The average American has $15,263 in consumer credit card debt. That’s a big number, but it’s by no means hopeless. Getting out of debt is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge. If you change the way you spend and save, you will change your life.
The current estimated student loan debt in America is $1 trillion. Instead of adding to that figure, help your kids stay out of diploma debt by guiding them toward in-state tuition, scholarships and part-time jobs. And if they’re already out of college and carrying a load of student loans, encourage them start a $1,000 emergency fund, find cheap housing, and live like a broke college student again. Any extra money they earn goes toward the debt! That way, they won’t be saddled with loans when they’re ready to start a family and buy a home.
Take advantage of your three free credit reports each year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. With identity theft on the rise, it’s smart to make sure a bad guy isn’t having a good time on your dime.
New cars lose about 60% of their value in the first four years. Instead of coughing up expensive car payments year after year, save up and buy only what you can afford.
When it comes to life insurance, shoot for 10–12 times your current income. Life insurance is important because it keeps your family out of dire financial straits should you pass away unexpectedly. With at least 10 times your current income, your loved ones should be able to invest the money and live off the growth. Avoid gimmicky whole life and universal policies; only buy term life insurance. If you practice the principles SmartDollar teaches, you won’t need life insurance forever. Why? Because you’ll have zero debt, a full emergency fund, and a hefty amount of money in your investments.
A couple with $10,000 in debt and no savings is twice as likely to divorce as a couple with no debt and $10,000 in the bank. If your savings are deteriorating, stop the bleeding with a $1,000 emergency fund. And when you become debt-free, your next goal should be saving 3–6 months of expenses. Your relationship is worth saving for.
We actually prefer the 100%-down plan, where you save like crazy then pay cash for your home, but a 15-year mortgage works too. Stay away from 30-year mortgages though. Dragging out your payments like that will cost you tens of thousands of dollars—if not hundreds of thousands. The faster you pay off your house, the less it will actually cost.
The average American has more than $2 million pass through his or her hands during a working lifetime. Yes, even you. That’s a lot of money to let slip away with nothing to show for it. Make your money work harder by taking advantage of your company’s 401(k) plan, and always have a fully stocked emergency fund.
There are less than six months left until Christmas. The best time to start saving for the holidays was back in January, but the next-best time is now. Decide how much you’d like to spend on meals, gifts, travel, and entertainment. By December, you should have exactly what you need for a credit-card-free Christmas.
One last reminder: The best way to create a solid financial future is to stay focused on your money goals now. And when you do slip up, that’s okay—you’re only human! Simply course-correct then chase after your goals harder than before. You’ll get there!