Just Keep Buying: Proven Ways to Save Money and Build Your Wealth

Title: Just Keep Buying: Proven Ways to Save Money and Build Your Wealth

Author: Nick Maggiulli 

Paperback: 296 pages

Publisher: Harriman House

Publishing date: April 12, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • New and experienced investors looking for hard evidence on money management, building wealth and investing.

What’s inside this book?

  • Real data and stats on the biggest questions in personal finance and investing.
  • Proven ways to build wealth.
  • Engaging anecdotes with powerful life lessons.

3 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. Why you need to save less money than you think you do.
  2. Why saving cash to buy during market dips is not the best idea.
  3. How to survive – and even thrive – during a market crash.

3 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I start building wealth today?
  2. Is everything I’ve learned about investing true?
  3. How can I take smarter steps and live richer?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Nick Maggiulli clearly delights in flouting the received wisdom about how people should manage their money. The end result is a book that’s full of both aha moments and practical takeaways. As a fellow writer about personal finance, I felt a creeping sense of jealousy in what I was reading. Nick takes the tired topics of how to save and invest well and managed to make them utterly fresh and even quite a bit of fun.” – Christine Benz

“The first time I read Nick Maggiulli’s writing, I knew he had a special talent. There are lots of good data scientists, and lots of good storytellers. But few understand the data and can tell a compelling story about it like Nick. This is a must read.” – Morgan Housel

“Just Keep Buying is the ideal combination of thoughtful and actionable. Maggiulli not only uses evidence to guide his suggestions, but he is also among the best at boiling everything down into ideas that are easy-to-understand and apply.” – James Clear

Your Turn: What did you think of Just Keep Buying? Share your opinion in the comments. 

All You Need to Know About Credit Card Fraud and How to Protect Yourself

With the advent of online commerce, credit and debit card fraud has exploded. In fact, according to data collected by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there have been 230,937 reports of credit card fraud filed in the first two quarters of 2022.

Unfortunately, credit card fraud can go unnoticed until it causes serious damage. Here, we’ve outlined what you need to know about credit and debit card fraud, how to protect yourself and what to do if you’re targeted. 

What is credit card fraud?

Credit and debit card fraud occurs when a scammer gains access to a victim’s card information and goes on to empty their accounts, commit identity theft and more. 

Card fraud can be pulled off in several ways:

  • Card skimming involves a scammer tampering with an ATM or payment terminal. The machine reads the victim’s card information and transmits this information to the scammer.
  • Brute force attacks occur when a scammer employs an auto-dialer to access the card numbers issued within the target’s bank identification number (BIN). The scammer can perform an infinite amount of guesses until they land on the card’s expiration date, security code and other numbers.
  • Online phishing is implemented through insecure links embedded in emails or online ads, or through bogus surveys, solicitations, job offers, dating profiles and the like. The scammer uses these means to gain access to the victim’s credit or debit card information.

Protect yourself

Fortunately, there are measures you can take to protect yourself from credit or debit card fraud. Follow these tips to stay safe:  

  • Monitor your accounts. Check your checking account and credit card statements frequently so you can spot the first signs of fraud.
  • Sign up for alerts. Many issuers will send you texts or emails when new charges post to your account or card-not-present transactions take place. These alerts can help you spot credit card fraud more easily.
  • Use strong, unique passwords across all your accounts. It’s also a good idea to change your passwords approximately every six months.
  • Choose zero liability. If possible, choose a card with zero liability protection so you won’t be held accountable for any fraudulent charges made on your card.
  • Shop with caution. Only shop reputable sites and avoid clicking on pop-up ads or links in emails from unverified senders. To confirm a site’s security, look for the padlock icon and the “s” after the “http” in the URL. Avoid storing your credit card information in online shopping accounts. Finally, make sure the security settings on your devices are updated and choose a VPN (virtual private network) when using public Wi-Fi.
  • Keep your cards close. Keep your card tucked into your wallet or purse. If you use a cardholder on your phone case, keep your phone in a safe place and make sure the card numbers are not easily visible. It’s also a good idea to put your card away right after completing a purchase. 

If you’re targeted

If you believe your credit or debit card has been frauded, take immediate steps to mitigate the damage. First, let the credit card company know about the fraud. Similarly, if your debit card has been frauded, let Advantage One Credit Union know as soon as possible. Your old card will be canceled and you’ll be issued a replacement card immediately. You may also want to consider placing a credit freeze on your accounts as well to prevent the scammer from taking out a loan or opening another account in your name. 

Will I be liable for the fraud?

Taking immediate action upon the event of fraud is critical to your recovery. Under federal law, credit card holders are only liable for up to $50 in fraudulent charges. Debit card holders, on the other hand, only enjoy the same cap on their liability if they report the fraud within two days. Upon failure to do so, they may be held accountable for up to $500 if the fraud is reported within 60 days of occurrence. If they miss this deadline as well, they will be liable to cover the entire fraudulent charge to their account.

The good news is most credit and debit cards issued through major payment networks, like Visa and MasterCard, offer zero liability policies and other consumer protections. Read the fine print in your card agreement carefully to familiarize yourself with your responsibilities.

Credit and debit card fraud can devastate a victim’s financial health and leave them with huge bills to pay. Follow the tips outlined here to stay safe.

Your Turn: How do you protect yourself from debit and credit card fraud? Share your tips with us in the comments. 

Affordable Sustainability 1 of 12-All You Need to Know About Going Solar

Since 2008, hundreds of thousands of homeowners have chosen to install solar panels on their rooftops to use the sun’s energy for powering their homes. Solar panels can benefit the environment and can save the homeowner boatloads of money in energy costs over the years. Thanks to the ever-evolving solar industry and generous government incentives, solar panels are more popular than ever. Here’s what you need to know about going solar.

How do solar panels work?

Residential solar panels use technology known as photovoltaics, or PV. When the sun shines on these solar panels, photons from the sun are absorbed by the cells in the panel, which creates an electric field across the layers and causes electricity to flow. 

Can every roof support solar panels?

Unfortunately, not every roof, or every home, is suitable for solar panels. A roof may be too weak to hold the panels, due to age and wear. There may be trees blocking the sunlight from reaching a roof, making it unsuitable for solar panels. Or, the shape and slope of the roof may make it difficult to hold or house the panels. 

In general, the best candidates for solar panels are south-facing roofs with a slope of 15 to 40 degrees that are in decent condition and won’t need to be replaced within a few years. If your roof doesn’t match these exact criteria, though, it can still be suitable for solar energy. It’s best to have a professional evaluate your roof to determine whether solar panels can work for your home.

The dollars and sense of going solar

Most homeowners interested in going solar want to know how much money they’ll save on energy costs before purchasing. However, it can be difficult to put a dollar amount on the savings incurred from installing solar panels. The exact amount of money saved depends on the buyer’s monthly energy consumption, the rates set by their utility company, the direction, size and slope of their roof, the size of the solar energy system they purchase and whether they choose to buy or lease their panels. Government incentives that pay for part of the purchase make a difference in savings incurred, as well. 

The cost of going solar has dropped significantly since 2009, as competition in the industry increases and the price of panels and installation keeps falling. While costs will vary tremendously by roof, location and other factors, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy, installing a solar panel system will cost homeowners an average of $20,000, or $14,000 after the federal tax credit. Depending on your home state, there can be additional government incentives for lowering the cost. Before making the choice to go solar, though, speak to a professional in the industry about any possible kickback from your state and a realistic idea of actual cost. 

Solar financing

If you’ve decided to go ahead and install solar panels on your roof, you have several options for financing the purchase:

  • Cash. If you can afford to fund the entire purchase in one go, you’ll enjoy the most significant savings. Solar panels can reduce your electric bill by 70-100%. This means most systems will pay for themselves in five to seven years. 
  • Lease agreement. Solar leasing is not available in every state, but it is an option in approximately half of the country. You’ll pay a monthly rent for the panels, but forego any upfront fees. The leasing company will install the panels and collect the federal tax credit on your behalf. The downside to this choice is that the leasing company will remove the panels after the lease agreement is over, or charge you full price to keep them.
  • Solar loan. A secured solar loan will use your home as collateral and offer tax-deductible interest, while an unsecured solar loan will likely have higher interest rates. 
  • Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). One of the most  financially flexible ways to finance your solar panel purchase is through a loan or a line of credit taken out against your home’s value.

Solar panels and the environment

One of the biggest incentives for going solar is to help the environment. As a renewable source of energy, solar power reduces greenhouse gas emissions like carbon monoxide into the environment. This translates into less pollution and cleaner air and water. 

Going solar can be a favorable choice for the environment–and your budget. Use this guide to make an informed decision about changing your home’s energy source. 

Your Turn: Is your home solar-powered? Tell us about it in the comments.

Free Vacation Scams

Congrats – you’ve won an all-expense paid vacation to the Bahamas! It’s a dream come true! Or is it? Unfortunately, if you receive notification that you’ve landed a free luxury vacation, you’ve likely been targeted by a scam. Here’s what you need to know about free vacation scams and how to protect yourself from falling victim.

How the scams play out

In a free vacation scam, a target will receive a letter, email or text message informing them that they’ve just won a sweepstakes for a free luxury vacation. They’ll be asked to pay a small fee or tax to help process the prize. Alternatively, they may be asked to share their credit card information before they can claim the prize. Sadly, after paying the fee, they’ll never hear from the sweepstakes company again.

In another variation of this scam, the target is asked to attend a “short” meeting before they can claim their prize. This turns out to be a prolonged and overt sales pitch for a time-share purchase or travel-club membership. There may be vouchers for the promised vacation at the end of the class, but they can only be used for specific dates that may not work for the target, and require all sorts of additional fees before the “free” vacation can be redeemed. Also, if the victim signs up for what the scammer is selling, they’ll be charged hefty membership fees with few and/or hard-to-access benefits. When they try to cancel this nightmare membership, they’ll find a tangle of rules and regulations, and may find themselves stuck paying a monthly fee for a full year or more.

Red flags

Look out for these red flags to help you spot a possible free vacation scam:

  • You’re told you’ve won a sweepstakes you know you’ve never entered.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee or tax before a prize you won can be processed.
  • You’re highly pressured to sign up for a time-share purchase or travel club membership.
  • You’re told a free vacation offer with a club membership purchase is a one-time-only deal and that you must act quickly to avoid missing out.
  • You’re asked to share your credit card information to claim a free vacation you’ve allegedly won.

Protect yourself

Follow these tips to keep yourself safe from free vacation scams:

  • Never share personal information with an unverified contact.
  • Never agree to pay a “processing fee” or “tax” to claim a prize.
  • If a caller insists on payment via gift card or wire transfer, hang up.
  • Always read the fine print and do careful research before you sign up for a time-share or club membership. Look up online reviews, ask to speak to current clients or members and be sure to have a clear understanding of the cancellation policy before you join.
  • Be wary of club memberships that promise a lot of benefits for very little money. 

If you’re targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a vacation scam, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage. 

First, if you’ve paid the “processing fee” or “tax” with a credit card, be sure to dispute the charge as soon as possible. If you’ve shared your credit card information, cancel the card and consider placing a credit freeze on your name. Finally, let the FTC know about the scam so they can do their part in catching the scammers. If you’ve been targeted by a travel company, you can also alert the BBB so they can update their ratings and take appropriate action.

Responsible behavior never goes on vacation. Follow the tips outlined here to keep safe from a free vacation scam.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a free vacation scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Wealth Habits: Six Ordinary Steps to Achieve Extraordinary Financial Freedom

Title: Wealth Habits: Six Ordinary Steps to Achieve Extraordinary Financial Freedom

Author: Candy Valentino

Hardcover: 256 pages

Publisher: Wiley

Publishing date: Nov. 15, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone lacking connections and/or an education who’s wanting to build wealth.
  • Seasoned entrepreneurs, young adults and everyone in between who is looking for financial guidance. 

What’s inside this book?

  • Candy’s own story of how she opened her first store at age 19 (without the benefit of a college education) and built it into a 7-figure business before most of her friends had even completed college.
  • The six key habits to building wealth:
  1. Long-term investing strategies
  2. How to recession-proof your life
  3. Ways to keep money out of the IRS’ hands
  4. What to teach your children about money
  5. How to establish financial protection and security
  6. The secrets to keep more of the money you make (so you can invest more of it)

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  • Can I get ahead in life without having a formal education?
  • What are the key habits needed for building wealth?
  • Is it too late to turn my money story around?
  • How can I overcome obstacles to my financial freedom?

What people are saying about this book: 

“I love the way Candy thinks. She shows you how to collapse time in a way the most successful people I know have done: breaking wealth down to the simplest form of the game to create success. This book should be required reading for every high school student, aspiring entrepreneur, or anyone who wants to turn the tables on their current financial situation.” – Rick Steele

“People that build wealth do things differently. Not only does Candy understand this from her own experience, but she does a masterful job of giving the reader actionable steps to immediately put them on the path to financial freedom and generational wealth. She has cracked the code, and if you’re looking to change your financial reality, this book is for you.” – Todd Davis

“Candy Valentino is the real deal! She’s overcome massive obstacles and built practical systems to help anyone achieve massive wealth. I highly recommend this book!” – Rory Vaden

“Candy Valentino is an Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur! By researching and interviewing the various stages of wealth creation from industry leaders, Candy has really done a masterful job of simplifying the complex. This book is a must read!” – Tom Hatten 

Your Turn: What did you think of Wealth Habits? Share your opinion in the comments.

Travel Hacks 1 of 12: 6 Ways to Save on Airfare

If you’re planning a trip overseas, airfare may be your largest vacation expense. Even when flying relatively close to home, the cost of your airline ticket can take a big bite out of your vacation budget. Fortunately, there are loads of ways to save on airfare and leave you with more to spend at your destination. Here, we’ve compiled a list of six ways to save on airfare.

  1. Be flexible with dates and destinations

If you’re willing to be flexible on dates and the destination of your flight, you can potentially save hundreds on your airline ticket. Instead of choosing a date and destination for your vacation and then searching for the best prices, select a date and destination based on the best available deals. If you’re set on going to a particular destination, you may be able to save a boatload of money on the ticket by flying to a nearby airport and then driving to your vacation spot. 

  1. Shop smart online

Harness the power of technology to score the best price on airfare. Searching sites and apps like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline is like using multiple travel agencies to find the best flights for your vacation. Kayak, another popular travel app, plugs your preferred dates into its search engine and searches airline sites and agency sites to provide you with all the prices and options available. 

  1. Act quickly to snag mistake fares

The best deals on airfares happen by mistake. When an airline accidentally discounts a ticket, you can snag a flight for as much as 90% off its conventional price. Mistake fares get snatched up quickly, so you’ll need to check your favorite airlines and flight apps often so you don’t miss a deal. If you haven’t worked out your child care and/or work arrangements for a date with a heavily discounted airfare, it’s best to grab it anyway and work out the details later. By federal law, airlines must allow 24 hours for free cancellations of all flight tickets. 

  1. Consider booking with a foreign currency

If you’ll be flying a foreign carrier, it may be cheaper to pay for your ticket with the local currency of your destination. Before paying for your flight, check to see if it’ll cost less if you don’t pay in dollars. Sometimes, it can actually cost more this way, but oftentimes, you can save a significant amount by simply changing your location from the U.S. to your destination.

  1. Book early

You’ll typically find the best deals on international flights 3-6 months before the departure date. If you’ll be traveling during peak times, like summer or during a holiday season, you’ll want to search for tickets even earlier. Flights are updated constantly, so check often to get the best deal.

  1. Watch out for sneaky fees

Too often, an economy flight will actually cost a lot more than its listing after the airline tacks on all sorts of extra fees and surcharges. For example, you may need to pay a fee for every bag you check during each leg of your journey. Other airlines charge a fee for choosing seats, which may be a necessity if you’ll be flying with young children or an elderly person in need of assistance. Make sure you know exactly how much you’ll be paying before you book a ticket – it can sometimes be cheaper to upgrade your ticket or switch to a direct flight and avoid some of these fees. 

Airfare can be the biggest item on your vacation budget, but there are so many ways to save on this expense. Use the tips outlined here to get the best deal on your tickets and keep your vacation budget intact. Happy travels!

Your Turn: Have you scored a low price on an airline ticket? Share your best hacks with us in the comments.

Which Apps Can Help Me Keep My Financial Resolutions for the New Year?

Q: I’m looking for tools to help me actually keep the financial resolutions I made for the New Year, but I’m confused by all the options. What are the best personal finance apps that can help me stick to my money resolutions this year?

A: These days, there’s an app for virtually anything; and personal finance is no exception. The app market is flooded with personal finance apps, but there are a select few that stand out for their excellent functionality and ease of use. Here, we’ve reviewed five of the most popular personal finance apps to help you stick to your financial resolutions.

  1. Mint

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: Full money management
  • Cost: None
  • Free Trial: N/A
  • Basic Features: The wildly popular money management app lets you track your bills, categorize and review your spending and monitor your credit health, all at no cost. 

Mint excels at providing a complete financial picture in one location. You can link your credit and debit cards to the app, and Mint will read your transactions, categorize them and show you how you’re spending your money. Access your credit score and get a breakdown of how your score is determined. You can also easily create a budget within one of the most popular personal finance apps on the market. 

The one significant downside to Mint is the ads, which many users find excessive, intrusive and annoying. 

  1. Personal Capital

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: Budgeting and investment tools
  • Cost: Budgeting tool is free. Wealth management costs 0.89% of the balance, up to $1,000,000.
  • Free trial: No
  • Basic features: Allows you to manage your assets and investments along with your everyday spending. 

Personal Capital promotes itself as an overall personal finance app, but it really shines at investment management. Track your portfolio by account, asset class or individual security and identify new opportunities for diversification and risk management, all on the app.

The disadvantages of Personal Capital include the relatively high cost for wealth management and complicated budgeting features. 

  1. You Need a Budget

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: Budgeting and tracking expenses
  • Cost: $98.99/year or $14.99/month
  • Free trial: Yes
  • Basic features: Import transactions from your checking account and apply them to each budget category to get a full picture of your spending habits. Adjust budgeting categories as necessary and review detailed reports of how spending is progressing throughout the month. 

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is an app built around YNAB’s famed four rules for improved overall financial health:

  1. Give every dollar a job.
  2. Embrace your true expenses.
  3. Roll with the punches.
  4. Age your money.

The app provides highly detailed budgeting tools and spending reports for the ultimate in money management. YNAB claims its users save an average of $600 in the first two months, and more than $6,000 in the first year.

The cons of YNAB include a premium subscription price and multiple features that can be confusing for new users and those who prefer a simpler interface. 

  1. Prism

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: Bill payment and tracking
  • Cost: Free
  • Free trial: N/A
  • Basic features: Track and pay your monthly bills with ease.

Prism takes the stress out of bills. Sync the app with thousands of billers nationwide, add your bills and Prism will automatically track them for you. You’ll get friendly reminders when a bill is nearly due and you can even use the app to schedule payments several days in advance. Never miss a bill payment again!

Prism is an excellent app for bill payment, but it’s otherwise limited in its money management functions. You won’t be able to create a budget or track expenses outside bill payments on the app.

  1. M1 Finance

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: No-fee investing
  • Cost: Free
  • Free trial: N/A
  • Basic features: Blends automated investing with expansive portfolio customization’s.

M1 Finance offers more than 60 pre-built portfolios, or “pies,” for users to choose as their own investment strategy. There’s also the option of building your portfolio on your own in the app. M1 can be a fabulous tool for investors who are looking for automation that aligns with their personal preferences, risk tolerance and investment goals.

While M1 shines as a no-fee investment app, it fails at offering several key features that other competing apps boast, including tax-loss harvesting, advisors and syncing external accounts for investment purposes. 

It’s a new year, and a new chance at improving your financial wellness. Use this guide to find the perfect apps to help you reach your financial goals this year.

Your Turn: Which apps are you using to help you keep your financial New Year’s resolutions? Share them with us in the comments.

What to Buy and What to Skip in January

What’s your January shopping style–all shopped out, or ready to hit the mall again as soon as the last guest leaves? Whatever it is, we’ve got you covered! January begins with a bang, but there are no major shopping holidays once the new year gets underway. Of course, you can still pick up great bargains this month, or find that you’ve overpaid on items that get price drops just weeks after you’ve purchased them. Here’s what to buy and what to skip in January.

Buy: Winter clothing

Were you given a ton of gift cards to retailers over the holidays? If so, you’re in luck! Prices will start dropping on all winter apparel this month so retailers can make room for the new spring line. You can pick up warm-weather wear that’s discounted by as much as 85% and still have lots of time to enjoy it this season.

Skip: Spring clothing

The worst time to purchase an item is generally right before it’s in hot demand. With spring wear landing in inventory this month, prices will be high, so don’t plan on picking out a springtime wardrobe just yet. You’ll start seeing the first round of discounts on spring clothing in April. And of course, as the season deepens, so will the discounts. 

Buy: Fitness gear

The new year is here and it’s time to make good on that resolution to shed some holiday pounds. Retailers know this well, so they’ll slash prices on yoga mats, fitness balls, resistance bands, weights and more. You can also find athletic wear on sale this month, and sometimes exercise machines as well. Shop multiple retailers to score the best deals. 

Skip: Mattresses 

Is your deep winter sleep getting disrupted every night by a lumpy mattress? Hold on just a bit longer before springing for a new one. Online and brick-and-mortar mattress retailers will be dropping prices on their merchandise by as much as 60 percent next month during Presidents Day sale events. As always, look up prices at several online and in-store retailers for the best deal. 

Buy: Linens and soft goods

While you’ll want to skip the new mattress this month, you can still upgrade your night’s sleep without spending a bundle in January. The first month of the year is famous for its white sales, with soft home goods like blankets and pillows seeing discounts as deep as 70%.  

Skip: Snow gear

While winter apparel will see slashed prices this month, snow gear, which includes skis, skates, snowshoes and the like, tend to retail at full-price until the end of the season. Wait just a few more months for steep discounts on all things snow.

Buy: TVs

The football post-season is the perfect time to give your flatscreen an upgrade. Retailers will be competing for your business and offering up promotions on their TVs with discounts that rival those of Black Friday. 

Skip: A new car

Car prices tend to rise and fall throughout the year, so you usually don’t have to wait long for a discount on a new set of wheels. But, if you are shopping for a new car, you don’t want to finalize your purchase in January. According to Edmunds.com, January is the least discounted month of the year for car prices. If you’re not in a rush, you can wait for the big sales that run from fall through the end of the year. Otherwise, the next time you’ll see discounts on cars will be on Presidents Day next month. 

Buy: Holiday decor and gift baskets

The bargain-priced holiday leftovers you found on the shelves at the end of December will be selling at even lower prices this month. Get started on next year’s holiday prep by stocking up on wrapping paper, decor and even small gift baskets for those last-minute presents you frantically shop for each year. You can also pick up these small gifts to have on hand whenever you need one for any reason throughout the year.

It’s a new year, and a great time to pick up a fantastic bargain. This guide can help you learn what to buy and what to skip in January.

Your Turn: Have you picked up a bargain buy in January? Tell us about it in the comments. 

5 Workplace Resolutions for the New Year

It’s that time of year again: the time when you draw up a list of New Year’s resolutions looking awfully similar to last year’s list. This year, why not go beyond the usual weight-related goals and resolving to spend less time on social media by setting some resolutions for the workplace? It’s time to turn yourself into a star employee! Here are five workplace resolutions for the New Year.

  1. Acquire a new skill 

You may be a dedicated worker, but you’re only as good as your skills. Are they up-to-date? Make a commitment to learn a new skill in your field this year or to significantly expand your current skill set. Broadening your range of knowledge and expertise can help you advance in your career.

  1. Improve your sleeping habits

If you’re yawning your way through your workday and checking items off your to-do list in between too many cups of coffee, you may want to rethink your sleeping habits. Getting enough shut-eye each night will help you power through your workday while at your best, instead of slogging through it bleary-eyed and half-asleep. In addition to boosting your productivity, sleeping better can strengthen your immune system, improve your mood, make your memory stronger and help keep those extra pounds off. 

Follow these tips from the CDC for a better night’s sleep:

  • Be consistent with your bedtime and wake time.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet when you’re ready for bed.
  • Keep your phone and other electronic devices out of reach or remove them from your bedroom. 
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and large meals before bedtime. 
  • Be physically active during the day.
  1. Rethink your work-life balance

A healthy work-life balance is crucial for success at work and further career growth. It isn’t easy to strike that perfect balance between absolute workaholic and careless employee, but you can do it! Take stock of your daily and weekly schedule now, at year’s end, to ensure you aren’t neglecting the parts of your life outside work, such as your family, friends, hobbies and more. If you’re overdoing it with work responsibilities, resolve to take some time each week to unplug from your job and tune into the rest of your life. 

  1. Improve your social media profiles

If you’re considering a career change within the next year or so, you may want to take a good look at your social media profiles. Most recruiters look up potential new employees online before moving ahead with the hiring, and if your social media profiles are in any way embarrassing and/or unprofessional, they can cost you a job. Spend some time now updating each of your profiles and ensuring that you’d be comfortable with any future boss checking them out.

  1. Create opportunities for engagement

Start the year off right by looking for ways to increase your engagement with other workers in your field. You can collaborate on present and future projects, share new insights and developments in your line of work and bounce ideas off each other for honest and productive feedback. Look for like-minded individuals on online forums and workspaces geared toward employees in your field. 

Let these workplace resolutions help you become the indispensable employee you’ve always wanted to be.

Your Turn: What are your workplace resolutions for the new year? Share them with us in the comments. 

Step 12 of 12 Steps to Financial Wellness-Review and Tweak

Congratulations! You’ve reached the 12th and final step of the 12 steps to financial wellness. In this step, we’ll review each of the previous steps and adjust this part of your financial health as necessary. 

Step 1: Track your spending

Are you being responsible in tracking your spending? You can do this with a budgeting app, by keeping a running estimate of how much you’re spending in each category in your head, or by reviewing your receipts and checking account statements at the end of each month. Knowing where your money is going will help you make more responsible spending decisions in the future. 

Step 2: Create and stick to a budget

Budgets need to be reviewed and tweaked every few months or so to ensure they still work for your present life circumstances. Fluctuations in consumer prices, your income and various life expenses need to be accounted for in your budget. If your budget no longer works for you, make some changes until it does again.

Step 3: Pay down debt

Take a minute to review where you are in your debt-paying journey. Have you made as much progress as you’d hoped to at this point in time? Can you beef up any payments and make that debt disappear sooner?

Step 4: Talk money with your partner         

Have you had the big money talk with your partner? Are you remembering to touch base on money matters on a regular basis? Do you need to revisit any of the topics you’ve discussed, such as sharing accounts, dividing expenses and saving up for a shared dream?

Step 5: Spend mindfully

Review some of your recent purchases. Are you blowing money on stuff you don’t need instead of relieving stress and emotional overload in a healthy manner? If so, look for better ways to de-stress and remember to avoid temptation by disabling one-click purchases and staying away from stores that trigger your overspending impulse.

Step 6: Pay it forward

The money, time and smiles we share are the only moments that are truly ours. Are you remembering to pay it forward? You can volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, donate clothing to the less fortunate and help your favorite charity.

Step 7: Pay yourself first

Are you remembering to feed your savings? Remember to prioritize having an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Once you have that funded, you can work on saving toward long- and other short-term saving goals by automating a monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. At this time, you may want to consider increasing the amount you are putting into savings each month by trimming some discretionary expenses.

Step 8: Know when and how to indulge

Living a spartan lifestyle without any indulgences can make you lose your budget–and fast! Instead, make sure you know when and how to indulge. Are you remembering to work your selected just-for-fun expenses into your budget so you can indulge without the guilt? Now is a good time to look back at your indulgences to figure out if they were good uses for your money.

Step 9: Check your credit score

How are those three magic numbers doing? If you’ve been following the rules for boosting and maintaining a high credit score, like paying your bills on time, having several active cards and keeping your credit utilization low, your score should have improved during these last few months, opening the door to low-interest loans and more.

Step 10: Think about retirement

Have you opened and furnished retirement accounts at work and beyond? Take the time now to review these accounts and to assess whether your funds have reached the place you’d hoped they would by now. 

Step 11: Start investing

Have you taken the beginner steps toward investing? A crucial part of successful investing is reviewing your portfolio on a regular basis and adjusting as necessary. Make sure your investments are performing well and that your assets are diversified in the most optimal way.

Step 12: Review your overall financial health

In this final step, you’ll review your financial health on a regular basis, just as you’ve done here. Don’t forget to maintain each component of your financial wellness to keep it in top shape.

Reviewing your financial health on a regular basis is an important part of staying financially fit. 

Your Turn: How often do you review your financial health? Tell us about it in the comments.