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Improve Your Finances with Better Money Management

Put your financial plan into action today with these smart tips:

See where you’re spending Start your plan by writing down where you spend every dollar over the next month. You may be surprised at what you’re spending money on – and how much you’re spending on certain things.

Make a budget Once you know what you’re spending and where, create a written budget and stick to it. It’s the most effective way to stay within your means and curb bad spending habits. Be sure to review your expenses against your budget monthly

Reduce what you owe The more debt you can pay off, the less interest you will have to pay, and the more you can funnel into savings and investments for the future.

Start saving A savings plan helps meet financial goals and provides security. Set aside a percentage of your monthly income as savings. Ten percent is a good target if you’re in your 20s or 30s, more if you’re older and behind in your retirement planning. Make it the first “bill” you pay by setting up an automatic investment.

Plan for retirement Contribute to an IRA or participate in your company’s 401k plan. The yearly maximum you can contribute to these tax-advantaged plans changes, so check with your accountant or company plan coordinator.

Protect yourself from identify theft Receive an early warning of potentially fraudulent activities by requesting credit reports annually. is a central site that allows you to request a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Keep good records Save yourself from scrambling at tax time – and don’t miss any deductions – by organizing your financial records early in the new year. Be sure to save receipts, cancelled checks, pay stubs, bank and investment statements, and proof of any other deduction you want to claim, such as alimony, charitable contributions, or mortgage interest.

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