4 Simple Ways to Fix Your Finances in 15 Minutes
These four ideas all have the potential to improve your financial future future in 15 minutes or less. If you've done them all, consider yourself ahead of the pack.
1. Check Your Credit Report and Score
Checking your credit report is one of the best things you can do, and it's free through AnnualCreditReport.com, the government website. I was sure glad when I first checked my credit report. An old gym membership that I thought I had cancelled because I relocated back to the Midwest was still showing up -- as delinquent. Having it on my credit report was hurting my credit. Luckily, in 15 minutes I was able to get it taken care of, and my credit was restored.
You don't need to know your credit score unless you're making any major changes (job, house, car) or if you have never checked it before. For instance, a former intern of mine was surprised to learn that his score was below 600. Turns he out he had no credit history, so he started building one and was able to increase his credit score after a few months by over 100 points.
Unfortunately, you don't get your credit score for free. You'll have to sign up for a free FICO credit score trial service. Or, you can rely on a service like Credit Karma for a free non-FICO TransUnion score (which is also free and requires no trial or credit card). Or you can be a customer of some banks.
2. Start an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is something everyone should have to protect you against any unexpected emergencies. Just start putting some of your savings into a separate account, preferably an online savings account where you can get great interest, and only tap it if it's truly an emergency. The general rule is to have six months of expenses saved up -- to protect you in case you lose your job -- but it doesn't hurt to have more, especially in this economic climate.
If you've always struggled to have an emergency fund, consider the 52 Week Money Challenge. With the challenge, you start off by saving $1 per week and increase it $1 each week. By the end of the year you'll have accumulated $1,378 -- plus interest.
3. Start a Roth IRA
If you don't have a Roth Individual Retirement Account, start one right now. A Roth is one of the best retirement vehicles because whatever you earn in interest or appreciation is tax-free. So you get to invest money from now until retirement and the government can't take any of it away as long as you follow the Roth IRA rules.
4. Simplify Your Finances
If you've done the first three, then this last one is an ongoing project you can bite off in 15 minute increments: simplify your finances. If you're like me, you probably have a bunch of bank accounts, credit cards, brokers and other accounts that you've acquired over time.
Simplify your life by consolidating or closing some of those accounts. The fewer accounts you have, the less time you need to spend managing them. The fewer you have, the less likely you'll forget them.
Take 15 minutes to close out one account a week, and in few months your life will be so much easier. Another option is consolidating your accounts online. One of my favorite options is Personal Capital, which allows you to sync your financial accounts in one secure online portal.