After more than a year of living through a pandemic, we’ve learned that managing your money is more important than ever.
Most Americans have had to deal with significant changes in their lives because of COVID-19 — to their health, social lives and finances. Millions of people have lost their jobs — working mothers and people of color have especially suffered — and millions of others are living paycheck to paycheck. At the same time, many others have saved more money than ever during the pandemic because they kept their jobs and had fewer expenses.
Whether your goal is to find a job, start an emergency savings fund, save for college or make sure you have enough money to retire, MarketWatch is launching its first-ever money challenge to help you:
- Get a handle on your financial situation
- Learn why you act the way you do around money
- Set a goal
- Take action to achieve it
Even though we’re launching this challenge April 5, you can participate year-round. Your bank account and peace of mind will thank you!
Week 1: Get a handle on your financial situation
The first week of this challenge is all about the basics.
We’re starting slowly, but even these easy steps can help set you up for success.
Your first task: Log in to all of your financial accounts. Do you know exactly how much you have in the bank, and in any investment or retirement accounts?
You may have forgotten some of your passwords, or even that you’d opened an account at all. This is the perfect time to figure out your starting point, when you spend just a few minutes to organize your financial picture.
Research has shown that the most likely time for people to check their financial accounts is when they are expecting good news. But coming to terms with our anxiety and checking our full financial picture, even when it may not be as rosy as we’d like, helps us to stay on track, and to avoid any fees we might incur for keeping our accounts at low or negative balances.
Develop a plan for checking your accounts more regularly going forward. Pick a time, and write it on your calendar. Can you check all of your accounts at least once a week? That’s a great place to start.
This is great preparation for your second task: Review your retirement accounts, if you have them.
Are you aware of any retirement services your employer offers, such as a company match for money that you contribute? More than 97 million Americans have access to an employee-sponsored retirement plan, so there’s a strong likelihood you are one of them.
Are you contributing enough now to get your company’s full match? If not, consider amping up your contribution, if you can fit that into your current budget.
If you’re not sure how much you should be contributing, plug your current contribution into a retirement calculator, like this one from MarketWatch. That should help you a lot.
Once you’ve done this, relax! Then find a time when you can do your third task:
Evaluate all of your subscriptions. Do you subscribe to multiple streaming services? How about membership clubs, like gyms? Did you once sign up for a professional service like a software, and completely forget about it?
Take a look at your most recent credit-card statement, which should only take a few minutes. Are there any recurring charges you don’t recognize?
Spend just a few minutes to decide if there are any you no longer use and want to ditch.
There are even some services that will negotiate your bills for you (for a price.) If you’d like to keep some of your subscriptions but wonder if you can lower the price, either give those companies a call yourself, or outsource it, to a company like BillShark, TrueBill or BillFixers.
You’re making great progress!
We hope that at the end of the four weeks, you feel more secure and confident about managing your finances all year long. You might even save some money.
Check back here every Monday in April as we’ll update this story with the week’s theme and action items. We’re excited to have you along on this journey!