10 Financial Steps You Can't Afford to Put Off
Putting off for tomorrow what you can do today could end up hurting your wallet. According to University of Calgary professor Piers Steel in a study published earlier this year in Psychological Bulletin
, a peer-reviewed journal by the American Psychological Association, more than one in four Americans consider themselves chronic procrastinators, while only 5% felt this way in 1978.
Why should this concern you? According to Steel, "People who procrastinate tend to be less healthy, less wealthy and less happy." For example, a delay in filing taxes costs the average person $400, while credit card use for last-minute Christmas shopping increased 500% from 1991 to 1999.
Are you a financial procrastinator? When it comes to your own finances, have you been avoiding tasks that you know are important and postponing them until a later date?
Here are 10 financial tasks that you know you should do, but may have been putting off. Answer each to see how much of a financial procrastinator you truly are:
1. Are you paying off your credit card in full each month?
You know that you pay a fortune to borrow money from credit card companies and that you should pay off your credit card in full each month, but are you doing it? If you have too much credit card debt to pay it in full this month, have you at least put into place a system to get yourself out of credit card debt?
2. Are you contributing to your 401(k) up to the match?
You would think that most people would jump at the chance to receive free money. If your company matches a certain percentage of your 401(k) contribution, that is exactly what they are offering you, but studies indicate there is only a 50% chance that you are actually taking this free money.
3. Have you written your will?
Accidents happen and even those who are young should have a will, but many people make excuses as to why they haven't gotten around to creating this important financial document. It may be that you don't want to think about it or you believe you have plenty of time, but the reality is that you never know when you may die. Even more important, many people fail to set up a living will and other important information that they will need to have their wishes carried out if they can not make decisions for themselves.
4. Have you built an emergency fund?
You know you need one, but have you taken the time to figure out how much money you really need in case of an emergency and set up a plan to achieve that goal? Emergencies happen to the best of us, and not building an emergency fund is something you will regret if when the unexpected happens.
5. Have you created a budget?
You know you should have one so you know where your money is going. Many people fail to create a budget, because they fear what they may see. But creating a budget is a cornerstone of getting your finances in order and everyone should at least have a basic plan in place.
6. Have you compared your insurance rates this year?
Insurance is a competitive business and prices can change dramatically from year to year. The best way to make sure you are getting the best price on your insurance is to compare the rates once a year. Not doing so can cost you hundreds of dollars. This can also be done with a lot of other bills that you pay.
7. Have you checked your credit report this year?
In the past you could make the excuse that it cost too much to get your credit report, but now that you qualify for a free credit report from each of the three credit rating agencies at annualcreditreport.com, there is no good excuse not to find out what is inside them. Mistakes in your credit report can cost you a lot of money.
8. Have you opened an online bank account?
Online banks tend to pay a lot more interest than traditional banks when it comes to savings accounts. If your money is still sitting in a traditional bank earning a couple of percentage points interest at most, your failure to open one of the many online banking accounts available is costing you money. This is one of many banking moves you should make.
9. Do you check your tire pressure each month?
Making sure that your tire pressure is correct is one way to help save on gas consumption. Yet many people, while aware of this, still don't spend the five minutes it takes to make sure their tire pressure is correct each month -- costing them not only money in wasted gas, but also the cost of additional wear on the tires.
10. Have you had a home energy audit?
Energy companies want to help you save money by showing what areas of your house are leaking energy. Many will perform energy audits for free if you simply ask, while many more will do it for a nominal fee. You can even do it yourself online.
How did you score? If you are not a financial procrastinator, you should have answered "yes" to all of the questions. If you answered no to any of them, it should give you an idea on how much you procrastinate on your finances and provide a list of things that you know you need to get done.
Take the initiative and break yourself from the financial procrastination habit and vow to complete each step you haven't taken before the end of the month.
—For more ways to save, spend, invest and borrow, visit MainStreet.com.