The Wall Street Journal recently shared there are two times when you are most likely to follow through with your money goals (or any goal for that matter): the new year, and your birthday. 

So, if you want to become richer in 2020, now is the best time to set up the money goals necessary to achieve success. 

While the specifics of your goals should be tied to your individual situation, here are a few ideas to get you started.

7 Money Goals to Become Richer this Year

When you start brainstorming your financial goals for the year, make sure to keep an eye on the big picture. It’s easy to get caught up with trivial saving and earning goals – but those won’t make you rich. 

Instead, focus on the high-level items below and you’ll be well on your way to ending this year with far more wealth than you have now. 

1. Start tracking your finances and credit score

Do you know your total net worth, how much cash you have in the bank, and how much debt is on each of your credit cards? Knowing these details is an essential first step to building wealth. And it’s actually very easy to do.

I use the free tool, Personal Capital, to track all of my finances in one place – and I LOVE it! After connecting my credit cards, banks, investment accounts, and Zillow property values, everything updates automatically. All I need to do is log into one account to see my net worth over time, all of my debt, and whether I’m making more money than I spend every month (which is very important for building wealth).  

Additionally, keeping a high credit score can literally save you thousands of dollars a year – as it’s a key factor used to determine interest rates for your mortgage, car loans, etc.. And it’s rumored that some employers will even look at credit scores when deciding whether or not to hire someone. 

While there are many services online that offer to track your score if you pay them – you should never need to pay for your credit score. Many credit cards will now provide you with a free copy of your credit report every quarter. Alternatively, another one of my favorite tools, Credit Karma, will give you free access to your credit report – along with providing free tax preparation software. 

2. Do an audit of your ongoing expenses (This could save you thousands!)

Audit your expenses

Many people end up paying recurring fees for unnecessary and unused services. Some examples of costs you should review to start off your new year (and potentially eliminate) include:

Stop paying storage fees for junk you don’t use

If you pay to store a boat, RV, or storage unit full of old furniture, ask yourself if it’s really worth the cost. If you spend $1,000 to store an RV you take out for one week a year, it may be worth it to rent instead. And if you’ve had a storage unit for over a year, and you aren’t in the process of moving, it’s time to get rid of it.

Stop paying high insurance premiums “just in case”

Every insurance agent on earth will try to oversell you with “just in case”. Insurance should be to protect you from costs you cannot afford – buying extra only benefits your agent. 

My initial homeowners insurance quote charged me $50 to protect against lawsuits due to animal attacks on my property (I don’t own a pet and I live in the city) and $75 for identity theft protection (which my banks and credit card providers already cover for free). 

Make sure you’re only paying for insurance you need – and you could cut down your annual costs by a few grand.

Find and stop hidden subscription services

So many people still pay $10/month for a Hulu or Netflix free trial they forgot to cancel 2 years ago. 

You should never pay for a subscription service you don’t use (or forgot about). So start tracking those recurring expenses and turning them off! 

Check to see if your credit card company or bank tracks these recurring expenses for you. If not (or if you want extra protection) consider using the free tool Trim. 

The Trim App tracks your financial accounts and sends you texts if it notices a recurring payment, annual fee, or surprise transactions. Trim can save you on all kinds of bills.

Negotiate lower bills for your utilities and other recurring expenses

The last tip for lowering your monthly bills with your financial audit is to ensure you’re paying the lowest price necessary for your necessary recurring expenses.

Two great tools to lower your bills are Arcadia Power and Bill Shark.

Arcadia Power connects to your electric utility account to track your spending, make recommendations to save more, and allow you to pay your bill with a credit card. I’ve been using this service for several years now and it’s saved me a few hundred bucks.

Bill Shark is a service where you can upload your bills (phone, internet, cable, etc.) and they’ll negotiate a lower price with your provider. If they aren’t able to lower your bills, the service is free. If they do lower your bill, they take a portion of the savings as their commission. 

By cutting out unnecessary monthly expenses, you can end up with a few thousand extra by the end of the year. 

3. Make this the year you pay down debt

pay down debt this year

Every dollar of debt you pay down today can be worth hundreds of dollars in the future – so make this year the year you pay off as much of your debt as possible!

A few hacks that can help you pay off your debt faster include:

Pay off your credit cards first

Credit card debt is generally the worst kind of debt, as the interest rate is so high. The first thing you should do in 2020 is to make it a goal to pay off credit card debt. Fortunately, there’s an app for that – two actually. If you’re looking for help paying off your credit card debt, check out both Tally and Qoins, as these two apps can help you pay off your debt faster, while decreasing the total amount you pay. 

Refinance your debt (if appropriate)

As we enter 2020, student loan interest rates are as low as 1.90%. If you pay closer to 6-7%, refinancing your student loans could save you significantly. Just make sure you don’t refinance if you’re working toward government loan forgiveness, as refinancing could prevent you from qualifying. 

Mortgage rates are also far lower now than they have been in the past. So, if you own a house, you may want to check out the latest interest rates to see if you can lower your mortgage payment by a few hundred a month. 

In short, doing what you can to pay down debt now, and negotiate new rates while interest rates are low, can save you a fortune later in life. 

4. Automate your investment savings

automate your investment savings

The most valuable decision you can make for your future is to start investing now. 

Experts suggest saving 15-20% of your income is ideal. If you can’t hit that amount, just save as much as you can.

The two tips to remember when investing are to:

  • Automate your contributions. If you have money going into a retirement account every month, without any effort on your part, you’ll be far more likely to save for the long-run.
  • Diversify your investments. This is just a fancy way of saying “don’t put all of your money in one stock”. 

If you want to invest more this year, here are my favorite places to start:

  • Workplace 401(k) – just to get employer match. Plus, payroll deductions are the easiest way to avoid spending this money – as it never makes it to your bank account. If you have a 401(k), you may want to consider using Blooom’s free analysis tool to ensure your employer has these funds invested wisely. 
  • If you have a high deductible health plan, max out your HSA: As I mentioned earlier, a Health Savings Account is one of the best ways to invest. After using the service provided by my work for a couple of years, I switched over to Lively and save myself a few hundred in fees every year. 
  • M1Finance: This is my favorite robo-advisor and where I invest on my own – both for my personal retirement accounts and casual investing.
  • Fundrise: If you’re interested in investing in real estate, without dealing with tenants and repairs, Fundrise is a great place to start. With as little as $500 you can own real estate and earn solid returns. I’ve invested with Fundrise for the last several years.
  • Worthy Bonds: Worthy provides a stable 5% return on your investment – making it my favorite place to hold my emergency funds. You can buy your first bond for $10 and I’ve been able to withdraw my funds by the next business day.   

Regardless of how much you can save and invest, just make sure you’re saving something. Saving money now is literally buying yourself a future free from mundane work.

5. Increase your income

increase your income

Everyone wants to increase their income, but how do you do this?

Well, it’s actually not as hard as you might think. Let me share several reasons why.

It’s an employee’s market right now

We are starting this year with a strong job market. This means that employers need you more than you need them (high level, of course). 

Because of this, consider connecting with recruiters and employers in your field to see if anyone else would be willing to pay more for the work you do. Learning what you’re worth gives you the ability to request a higher salary from your current employer, or start a position where you can earn more.

It’s easier than ever to start a side hustle

Whether you want to start a full-time million-dollar business, or make a few extra bucks on the side, it’s easier than ever to make money with a side hustle.

While there are literally hundreds of possibilities, a few easy ones include:

  1. Writing articles on Fiverr
  2. Driving on Uber
  3. Renting your car out on Turo
  4. Renting out an empty room in your house on Airbnb
  5. Selling products on Amazon or Ebay
  6. Starting your own blog or YouTube channel

Personally, I’ve been able to earn an extra $100,000 from side hustles over the last 6 years (while keeping a day job for most of this time). This extra income has allowed me to travel, quit jobs that weren’t a good fit, buy a home, and invest. 

There’s no reason why you can’t give up 10 hours of TV watching a week to earn an extra $10,000 a year. 

6. Be deliberate about your giving

Be deliberate about your giving

I believe one of the most valuable aspects of having money is being able to give money. However, I also think it’s important to be smart about how you give your money (and who you give it to).

When you give money, keep the following in mind:

  1. Don’t give money at the cash register. When you give money through a grocery store, department store, etc., that company uses your donation to brag about how much they contribute to the community. Let companies use their own money for that.
  2. It’s better to give intentionally to a few deliberate causes, then $5 here and there to random causes. If you want your life to be impactful, select a few causes you really care about, and invest heavily in those. You’re better off helping one homeless mom cover several months in a new apartment then you are giving a few bucks to every homeless person you meet. 
  3. When you give to charities, make sure they spend the money appropriately. You can use Charity Navigator to determine how effective a given charity is at achieving its mission. 

So, as you start the new year, decide how much you want to give – possibly even setting it aside in a separate account.

Then, choose the groups, churches, and individuals you want to help – and commit exclusively to those causes. If someone asks you to donate somewhere else, you can say yes – but just make sure you’re okay knowing it means that one of your original charities will receive less. 

7. Keep learning about money

The better you understand how money works, how it motivates you, and what you want to use it to achieve, the more satisfaction it can bring to your life. Money doesn’t have to be scary, shameful, or evil. It’s a tool – so learn how to use it wisely. 

Subscribe to A Richer You and other personal finance blogs to continue on your journey. There are thousands of bloggers from different walks of life talking about money – and you should easily be able to find a few you can relate to. From people who want to retire early, to world travelers, to professional athletes and celebrities – there are many great people sharing how to maximize money in interesting ways. Find a few that are interesting to you – and keep learning.

Here’s to a successful and fulfilling new year!

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