15 Minutes to Financial Improvement

Posted May 28, 2013 by Kelley Long in Life After Five

Most people use lack of time to excuse themselves from those unpleasant tasks in life that seem overwhelming: eating a nutritious diet (guilty!), hitting the gym, managing their money… you know, all the fun stuff! It’s true that getting your financial act together could take hours of tedium, but there are some smart moves that you can make in 15 minutes or less that could have a huge impact on your financial future. Get on them today!

Make sure you’re saving enough for retirement. Seriously, this doesn’t have to take that long. And a survey done by HSBC found that even having the most bare bones plan in place for retirement leads to saving up to three times more money. You can thank me when you’re 65.

  • First: figure out if you’re on the right track using this calculator from 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy (I use the suggested percentages for rates of return and inflation, but you can play with that based on your own predictions if you think differently). Your company’s 401(k) plan website might also have a tool for this. Time needed: about five minutes.
  • Second: if you get the verdict ‘You may need to save more,’ take the rest of the time to increase your 401(k) plan contributions on your company plan’s website. Even one percentage point will make a difference and trust me, you won’t notice the hit to your paycheck. If that still has you coming up short, then commit to adjusting your savings rate each time you receive a raise. If your performance review rewards you with a 3 percent raise, log in right away and increase your 401(k) contributions by 1.5%. Time needed: about five minutes.

Get going on your savings goal. If you’re still waiting for leftover cash each month before you start saving toward a vacation or rainy day fund, it’s probably never going to happen. Is there even such a thing as “leftover money?” Check out this post from one of my favorite financial people that makes it pretty simple. Instead, obey the law of “pay yourself first,” and set up an automatic deposit to a savings account dedicated to your goal. CapitalOne360 and American Express Savings both offer high(er) interest savings accounts and the ability to quickly open up new accounts online with minimal hassle. If you can, have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited to this account. Filling out the form for HR takes about five more minutes – worth it! Total time needed: less than fifteen minutes.

Check your credit report. If it’s been more than a year since you accessed your federally mandated free credit report at annualcreditreport.com, it’s time to give it a gander and check for mistakes. Want to take it a step further? Buy your score at myFICO so you know where you stand. A score of 740 or higher gives you access to the best rates. If yours is lower, make sure you know what matters and what doesn’t as you work to fix it. Time needed: fifteen minutes. No more excuses – take 15 and get your finances on track for success!

About the Author

Kelley Long

Kelley Long is a CPA/PFS and CFP® who believes that the true meaning of financial security means having choices in life. She uses her 15 years of experience in various financial services industry jobs to inform her work as a Resident Financial Planner for Financial Finesse, providing unbiased financial guidance through workplace financial wellness programs. She’s also a volunteer and media ambassador for Feed the Pig and 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. In Kelley’s perfect world, everyone would feel great talking about their money concerns, fears, questions and problems, because then everyone would see that we ALL have those concerns, fears, questions and problems. Kelley lives in Chicago with her husband and their Himalayan cat Miles, where she also teaches BODYPUMP group fitness classes at the Chicago Athletic Clubs.