May 23, 2008

Improve your financial fitness

By Marcie Geffner - LendingTree.com

Did you know financial fitness can save your life?

Well, maybe not literally. But being well informed about money can reduce stress and help you live a healthier and happier life. Here are three tips to get you started:

Did you know? The U.S. has one of the lowest personal savings rates among the world’s economically developed countries. In February 2008, people in the U.S. saved only 0.3 percent of their disposable income, on average, according to the U.S. Department of Economic Analysis.

Saving money is crucial to financial well-being. Savings can help you cope with a financial emergency, make a major purchase and even get ready for retirement.

Saving is easier if you start early and make a habit of it. One good practice is to sign up for an automatic savings plan that deducts money from your paycheck or checking account and sets it aside before you have a chance to spend it. Stash your savings in a savings account, certificate of deposit (CD), investment account or retirement account to meet your future needs.

Did you know? Nearly 40 percent of adults have a budget and keep close track of how much they spend on food, housing, entertainment and other categories, according to a survey conducted
for the nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Approximately half of the adults surveyed said they had a good idea of how much they spend or tried to stay within certain limits. Seven percent had no idea and no set limits.

A budget is an important tool to plan and track how much you’re spending and saving each month. To make a budget, start with your monthly income and then allocate specific amounts for each expense. Try to set aside at least 10 percent for savings and no more than 30 percent for housing, 25 percent for living expenses and 15 percent for transportation.

Did you know? Nearly 70 percent of young adults have a credit card and 64 percent worry about their debts at least occasionally, according to a survey conducted for the National Endowment for Financial Education.

Paying credit card bills and other debts on time is essential because a history of on-time payments strengthens your credit score, which measures your creditworthiness. It’s much better to build your credit record slowly and patiently than to take on more credit cards than you can handle or spend more than you can repay.

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