Investing Tips for Any Time of the Year — November 2012, reviewed January 2013

At the end of a year, people think about ditching bad habits and starting the New Year with new and better ones.  You don’t have to wait until the December 31 to do this to change the shape of your finances.  Here are some quick tips to challenge one’s self.

Save and Invest.  Don’t underestimate your ability to save and invest.  Compound interest helps even modest amounts grow.

Lighten your credit load.  Few investments pay off as well, or with less risk than, eliminating high-interest debt on credit cards or other loans.

Boost your ‘rainy-day’ fund.  This is money you set aside for emergencies in a bank account to cover sudden unemployment or other emergencies.  Many experts will suggest keeping six months of expenses in such an account but for many households this is not reality.  Start somewhere, like having an extra house or rent payment set-aside, then increase it to two month of housing payments.  Suddenly it grows.

Take charge of your money.  Know where it goes by tracking spending and then set up a plan for how to spend it monthly and stick to it.

Pay yourself first.  Make savings a regular expense that is for you.  Regular deductions from a paycheck or bank account are easy ways to accomplish this and keeps you on track to achieve long-term goals.

Finally, know your investment self.  Use that knowledge to find investments that are a good match for you, based on your goals and your ability to take risks.

If you want to learn the basics about investing check out the online course ‘Invest NOW: Money in Retirement’ through the Extension website, http://www.extension.umn.edu/family/financial-security/invest-now/.  Work on changing the shape of your finances!