We all want a padded bank account, but to avoid making the same fiscal mistakes you made last year, you’ll have to do more than think positively. Here, money experts—from billionaire investors to LinkedIn career advisors—give you free advice for financial success in 2016.
THE MISTAKE: THINKING BUDGETS ARE EVIL
The Fix: “Budgets are the money version of a healthy diet,” says Christine Romans, chief business correspondent for CNN and coauthor of How to Speak Money. “Once you identify the empty calories in your budget, you’ll feel better and more focused.” If you don’t know your monthly spending, saving for the long-term is virtually impossible. Track every single expense—from parking meters to rent—for three months. “Spending habits can only be seen over the 90-day period,” says Kevin O’Leary, an investor on Shark Tank and author of The Cold Hard Truth on Men, Women & Money. “It’s sort of like a litmus test for good and bad habits.” Once you identify the money-sucking holes, readjust accordingly.
THE MISTAKE: NOT TAKING DEBT SERIOUSLY
One in five people think that carrying credit card debt over from month-to-month is a responsible way to manage finances, according to a 2013 report from the NFCC.
The Fix: “If you’re growing your credit card debt at an interest rate of 16 to 21 percent, you’re screwed,” says O’Leary. Start paying off plastic with the highest interest, then modify your lifestyle by a quotient of 30 percent. Meaning: Instead of buying lunch three times a week, eat out only once, and brown-bag the rest. On average, it takes about two to three years to bring your balance to zero. Create a long-term plan to curb spending.
THE MISTAKE: SHOPPING CHEAPLY, NOT SMARTLY
The Fix: Sure, your closet seems reasonable compared to your girlfriend’s, but that doesn’t mean you need another hoodie. “Chances are, you only use 10 percent of your wardrobe,” says O’Leary. “That means 90 percent of the time, you burn money on something that depreciates in value.” Instead of going crazy during sales, focus on a few quality investment pieces. Always ask yourself, “Do I really need that?”
THE MISTAKE: MAKING LATE PAYMENTS
The Fix: Even if you don’t think the late fee is a big deal, delinquency can lower your credit score. And, since this negative image mars your financial history for years to come, you could end up paying more on home or car loans.
THE MISTAKE: AVOIDING MONEY CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR PARTNER
The Fix: Disagreements over dough can be disastrous for a relationship. In fact, according to a finding by the National Marriage Project, couples with no assets are 70 percent more likely to divorce than couples with assets. “It’s critical to talk about your partner about short-term goals, such as a vacation, and long-term expenses, like retirement,” says Romans. “If you’re just starting a relationship, it’s absolutely appropriate to casually bring up.
Be honest about your financial woes and be kind to your partner’s.” Hiding debt is as bad as resenting your spouse’s purchases.
Clear the air from the start. Be honest about your financial woes and be kind to your partner’s.” Hiding debt is as bad as resenting your spouse’s purchases. Clear the air from the start.
THE MISTAKE: LOSING MONEY AT WORK
The Fix: Yes, the economic uncertainty makes you feel lucky to even have a job, but that doesn’t mean you should work like a mouse. “Money always trades for money,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn career expert. “You deserve a raise if you’re saving or making the company money.” Before you ask for a promotion, deliver peak performance for at least 30 days prior—ideally, talk to your manager on the tail-end of a successful project and always back your case with data. Whether you brought in three clients or work 12-hour days, highlight the numbers. Raises typically fall between 2 and 3 percent, but you can bump up your salary by as much as 10 percent by switching jobs or moving departments, adds Williams.