Written by Peggy Moore, Member Service Rep
With 2013 just upon us, individuals typically make some sort of a resolution. It can be anything from eating healthier to losing weight to getting that gym membership and using it. And most people have the best of intentions of keeping those resolutions when they first make them. So today the question is: what’s your New Year’s resolution and who will help you reach your goals?
My New Year’s resolution is to start a total money makeover.
Like a lot of New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to need help and support. And to help me start my total money makeover, I’ve enlisted the help of a book titled The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.
Ramsey states that there are 7 baby steps to a total money makeover:
- Save $1,000 cash as a starter emergency fund
- Start the debt snowball
- Fully fund your emergency fund
- Invest 15% of your income in retirement
- Save for college
- Pay off your home mortgage
- Build wealth – Invest, donate, enjoy life (without going into debt)
Let’s look at these steps in depth:
Step 1: Save $1,000 as a starter emergency fund. An emergency fund is needed for those unexpected events that happen in life, such as the loss of a job, car repairs or paying unexpected medical bills. “It’s not a matter of if these events will happen; it’s simply a matter of when they will happen.” This beginning emergency fund will keep life’s unexpected events from turning into even more debt. No more borrowing. “It’s time to break the cycle of debt!”
Step 2: Start the debt snowball. Make a list of all your debts. Start with the smallest debt and work your way up to the largest (do not include your mortgage). For example, let’s say you have a credit card with $2,000 charged on it, another credit card with $800 charged on it, a $1,000 medical bill, and an outstanding student loan of $5,000.
Your list would look like this:
$800 – credit card
$1,000 – medical bill
$2,000 – credit card
$5,000 – student loan
The purpose of the debt snowball is to give you “quick wins in order to stay pumped up about getting out of debt.” So your first goal would be to pay off your $800 credit card bill. Once that is paid off, you would apply the amount you were paying toward that bill toward the medical bill. If you were paying $200 per month toward the $800 credit card bill, it would be paid off in 4 months and then you would start paying an additional $200 per month toward your medical bill until it’s paid off. Continue the cycle until all your debts are eliminated. Just remember that this step will take time. The more debt you have, the longer step 2 will take you. Ramsey even recommends getting a part time job to help pay off your debts faster.
Step 3: Fully fund your emergency fund (3-6 months of expenses). Once you’ve completed the first two steps, start saving all your “extra” money to fully fund your emergency fund. This should total 3-6 months of expenses and varies by family. This money should be used for emergencies only. Ramsey states “Beware not to rationalize the use of your emergency fund for something that you should save for and purchase.”
Step 4: Invest 15% of your income in retirement. When you reach this step, you’ll have no debts (except your house) and a fully funded emergency fund. Ramsey recommends investing 15% of your household income into pre-tax retirement plans. This amount of investment is recommended because the extra money will be used to help you complete the next two steps: college savings and paying off your mortgage.
Step 5: Save for college. Ramsey’s advice: the best way to save for college is with Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and 529 plans. “In order to have enough money saved for college, you need to have a goal. Determine how much per month you should be saving at 12% interest in order to have enough for college.” “Remember, college is possible without loans!”
Step 6: Pay off your home mortgage. At this point, all your extra money should be going towards paying off your mortgage. “You are getting closer to realizing your dream of a life with no house payments.”
Step 7: Build wealth – Invest, donate, enjoy life (without going into debt). Now that you’ve paid off all your debts and built up your emergency fund, it’s time to “have fun like no one else, invest like no one else and give like no one else.”
Ramsey states, “To grow and maintain wealth, it is important to keep on investing BEYOND your retirement investments. Surround yourself with knowledgeable people to ensure your success.” Ramsey recommends investing in the stock market (mutual funds) and real estate (rental properties).
While my New Year’s resolution could have been anything, I’ve resolved to set a budget, pay down my debt, and save for my future. I know where I sit financially and I know that I’m on my way to financial peace.
With 2013 just beginning, why not set a new goal? Let this be the year that you take control of your financial future. Ramsey states “It will rain; you need an umbrella.” But the real question is: do you have an umbrella?