For 2014, consider making a New Year's resolution to improve your financial future.
"We suggest five quick tips to improve your financial future this New Year," said Don Civgin, president and chief executive officer of Allstate Financial. "A small investment of time can reap large rewards. On average, Americans surveyed by Allstate said they spend just under three hours a week managing their household finances, such as paying bills. This is about a quarter of the time they spend watching television (12 hours a week) or surfing the Internet (9.2 hours)."
Based on the conversations Allstate agency owners and staff have with their customers, Civgin offered five tips to improve your financial future:
1. Read up. Personal finance websites, books and newspapers are among the sources of free information about financial preparedness. To help you understand how this information relates to your personal situation, financial professionals can provide guidance, help you set financial goals, and assist you with products and services to achieve those goals. You can find fee-only or commission-based financial advisors through referrals from family or friends, or turn to organizations such as the National Association of Personal Financial Planners (www.napfa.org) or the Financial Planning Association (www.fpanet.org). For information about specific products, such as life insurance, ask for a referral from professionals you currently deal with and trust – such as your auto/home insurance agent.
2. 'Exercise' your financial muscles. Anything worth achieving takes a bit of time and effort. If you're on a diet, you probably have a weight loss goal. If you're shopping for a home, you'd tour houses and make a mental list of "must have" features before purchasing. Money management is no different. It's helpful to set specific goals and a timetable to achieve them. Rather than trying to make progress on everything at once, prioritize your goals every year so you can focus on the two or three most important.
3. Reward yourself for a job well done. When you retire, it will be time to reap the benefits of your hard work. But a happy, well-funded retirement won't happen without preparation – and many people today retire earlier than expected and without adequate savings. If your retirement savings efforts are falling short, consider consulting with a financial professional who can review your current financial and insurance needs and recommend actions to help you reach your goals.
4. A dollar a day keeps stress away. Saving cash for a financial emergency or finding money to invest can require creativity – such as small money-saving changes in your normal habits. Can you save $5 per day by packing a lunch rather than eating out? Could you free up $15 a month by cutting back on premium cable or satellite channels that you rarely watch? Sock that money away into a savings or money market account as an emergency nest egg, or "dollar cost average" by putting a set amount of money each month into a stock or bond fund. In addition, routinely save some or all of your financial windfalls: tax refunds, birthday gifts, bonuses. The money, interest and dividends will add up over time.
5. Tackle the credit card blues. Few things in life are more stressful than a pile of credit card bills you can't pay off. Danger signs include habitual late payments and trouble making the minimum payments. Many resources can help you develop a plan to reduce or eliminate your expensive credit card debt. Government websites, the National Foundation of Credit Counseling (www.debtadvice.org) and informational websites such as DebtorsUnite.com offer helpful information. Watch out for "get out of debt quick" companies that make promises that are too good to be true. Consider storing your credit cards far away from your wallet, phone and computer so that you're less likely to make impulsive credit card purchases. You're also less likely to overspend if you're handing over cold, hard cash.
"No one is alone in needing to prepare for the financial future. Just remember that you can be more in control of your fate, because you can always do something today to improve your financial health," Civgin said.
The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) is the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer, serving approximately 16 million households through its Allstate, Encompass, Esurance and Answer Financial brand names and Allstate Financial business segment. Allstate branded insurance products (auto, home, life and retirement) and services are offered through Allstate agencies, independent agencies, and Allstate exclusive financial representatives, as well as via www.allstate.com, www.allstate.com/financial and 1-800 Allstate®, and are widely known through the slogan "You're In Good Hands With Allstate®." As part of Allstate's commitment to strengthen local communities, The Allstate Foundation, Allstate employees, agency owners and the corporation provided $29 million in 2012 to thousands of nonprofit organizations and important causes across the United States.
Life insurance is issued by Allstate Life Insurance Company, Northbrook, Ill.; Lincoln Benefit Life Company, Lincoln, Neb.; American Heritage Life, Jacksonville, Fla.; and in New York, by Allstate Life Insurance Company of New York, Hauppauge, N.Y.