Fiscally Fit For 2015?  Tips From Maine CUs Featured In Statewide TV Segment

December 31, 2014

While many people focus on personal health goals in the new year, the beginning of the year is also a great time to check your financial fitness. So how can you whip your finances into shape?  Recently, WCSH 6 and WLBZ 2 featured tips offered by the Maine Credit Union League in a segment on ways to get fiscally fit for 2015.

Jon Paradise, VP of Governmental & Public Affairs for the Maine Credit Union League, told Newscenter's Jackie Ward on The Morning Report, which aired statewide on Sunday, December 28, that, "Maine credit unions are committed to helping consumers of all ages be successful financially.  We have five financial tips that can be good habits for the new year."  

The five highlighted are:

Establish a budget
Paradise said the first step in taking control of your finances is to establish a budget. It is extremely important to know how much money is coming in, where it’s going, and allocating it appropriately. Having a budget allows you to gain a broader understanding of your spending habits.  "Make sure your budget includes allowances for food, clothing, gas, and even entertainment," he added.

Start saving
Your budget should also include money set aside for emergencies. The old rule-of-thumb that three month’s salary is enough to have in your account no longer applies in our current economy.  Experts traditionally suggest six month's salary to be a more-appropriate cushion.  Paradise offered, "Any amount is better than none, though, so keep that in mind."  In addition, look for accounts to determine how to avoid paying fees and how you can maximize your earnings.  Many financial institutions (credit unions, etc.) have special accounts that provide additional earnings on savings and checking accounts.  Additionally, utilize delivery channels that have no or less fees including surcharge-free ATMs and other technology-based opportunities available through credit unions and other financial institutions.  To note, a recent study found that Maine consumers saved $45 million annually by using a credit union through lower and fewer fees, lower loan rates and better rates on dividends.  Ask questions of your financial institution so you can now how and where to save (not just on the money you have in but on the transactions you conduct).

Manage your credit
The beginning of the year is a perfect time to check your credit history, and to look for any mistakes on your credit report. Mistakes on your credit report can cost you large sums of money in interest rates, or even keep you from being approved for a loan.  The law requires the three major credit reporting agencies to provide you with one free credit report a year.  Pull those reports and look for discrepancies. If you find one, file a dispute with the credit reporting agency and they will remove the item if it is incorrect.  You should also check your FICO score on the report, make sure you have an understanding of what the score means, and how to improve it if the score is low.

Shop smart
Make it a priority to save money while you shop. Clipping coupons, and purchasing membership cards to discount stores can help you save money over time.  Those stores can save you money in the long run on certain purchases like food, gas, and even personal care items.

Check your insurance
Setting aside time at the beginning of the year to check your insurance policies can also save you money. You should review your auto, home and life insurance to make sure you have the proper coverage.  Many companies also offer discounted rates if you hold multiple policies with them. So, if your auto, home and life insurance policies are with different companies, you may want to explore the benefits of choosing just one company.

According to the Maine Credit Union League, "Establishing a budget, saving, staying on top of credit and insurance, and shopping smart all take some work. But the rewards to your personal and household bottom line are well worth the effort."

Happy New Year and here's to a fiscally fit 2015!