The New Year is always a popular time to set money resolutions. But if all you’ve written down is “finally stick to a budget,” chances are you won’t end the year any richer.
As the founder of Money After Graduation, a financial literacy website dedicated to helping 20- and 30-somethings pay off debt, save money, and invest in the stock market, I’ve been helping young people master their money for nearly 10 years. (Read how I budgeted my way through a surprise pregnancy, here.) Here are my top tips to make 2020 your richest year yet.
Focus on an easy financial win first
Chances are, there are dozens of things you could be doing better with your finances. Maybe you’re looking to create a budget, save for retirement and pay off your student loans, and wondering if you’ll ever be able to do it all.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and then consequently take no action. To avoid this, look for something simple you can knock off right away. Maybe you have a department store credit card with a small balance that you can pay off and close. Or maybe you’ve never actually taken a moment to sit down and draw up a budget. You’re looking for a quick win you can accomplish in 30 days or less. This will immediately reduce your stress and empower you to take a bigger financial step next.
Find a way to increase your income by $5,000 this year
The easiest way to meet your financial goals in 2020 is to have more money coming in; $5,000 is a good sum to make a big difference this year. If it seems impossible, think of it this way: it’s less than $100 per week.
There are two ways to increase your income: get paid more at your current job or work additional hours at a second job to bring in extra money.
If you have an annual performance review coming up, or you’re planning to job hop to a new company in 2020, this is the perfect time to negotiate your salary. You should be getting 3 to 5 percent raises each year if you stay with a company, but you can often see a salary bump of 10 to 25 percent (or more) if you move elsewhere. Asking for more money from an employer can be a deeply uncomfortable conversation, but it’s worth it to be uncomfortable for 20 minutes if it puts thousands of extra dollars in your pocket this year.
Likewise, finding an extra income stream can take some legwork, but it’s worth the effort to make you more financially secure. It might take as little as a half-day shift at a coffee shop on weekends, or picking up some freelance writing on the side to earn an extra $100 per week.
Even if you can’t increase your income by a full $5,000 in 2020, I promise you won’t be disappointed if you earn only an extra $3,000.
Contribute to a TFSA
It’s easy to forgo saving for retirement when you have loans to grapple with. It can feel futile to set aside small amounts for the long-term when so much of your income is going towards debt repayment. However, saving for retirement is not something you should procrastinate.
If you don’t already have one, open a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). This is the best long-term investment vehicle available to Canadians , but most aren’t using it correctly – or at all! Because all the interest, dividends and capital gains in the TFSA are completely tax-free, it beats out the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) where earnings are only tax-deferred. Unfortunately, most people use their TFSA to save for short-term goals like vacations or as an emergency fund, completely missing out on its tax-free power.
The TFSA is the best place to save and invest for retirement, so if you don’t have one, open one now. Even if you can only afford to set aside as little as $20 per week, you’ll have over $1,000 by the end of the year.
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