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Tips for the best financial you in the New Year
(StatePoint) At the same time that Americans are feeling the financial pinch of the holidays, they’re gearing up for 2020, with their top two goals being to save more and increase their credit scores, according to a national consumer survey by Experian.
  Almost three out of four consumers surveyed are motivated to improve their finances. To reach their New Year goals, survey respondents say they’ll spend less money to improve their credit score (59%) and pay off credit card debt (58%).
  To help get you started, Experian Boost ambassador, actor and financial empowerment activist, Hill Harper is providing these money tips:
• Create a Financial Blueprint: The first step is to create a blueprint identifying your money, saving and investing goals. Examine your priorities and determine how much money you require to meet your basic needs. From there, you should assess what else you need to be happy and how you can use money as a resource to achieve it. 
• Assess the Cost of Being You: If your expenses or debt outpace your income, then it’s very difficult to live the best version of your life. Rather than continuously playing catch-up, track your spending to discover new ways to reduce monthly expenses. Apply those savings towards self-investment.
• Understand Smart vs. Dumb Money: Not all dollars spent hold the same value. Knowing the difference between “smart” and “dumb” money is key to building a solid financial foundation, according to Harper, who says that “dumb money” is spending on things like credit card interest or items that lose value quickly, whereas “smart money” is spending on things that pay dividends, like an education or home.
• Control Your Credit Score: A good credit score can help you gain access to capital with better terms at affordable rates. To improve it, pay bills on time and use a resource like Experian Boost, which is a free online tool that allows you to add positive payment history from utility and telecom bills to your Experian credit file, which can increase your score instantly.
• New Year, New You: “We’re starting a new decade and what better opportunity is there to do a complete financial makeover?” says Harper, who recommends many other steps that will set you up for financial success, including building an emergency fund, securing health insurance, avoiding debt for unnecessary purchases and investing wisely.
  “No one has a crystal ball, but given lower unemployment rates and low interest rates, 2020 could be a good year to have a plan for growth. A diversified portfolio for this next decade is a good portfolio,” says Harper. More tips from Harper can be found at 
  While managing finances can seem intimidating, identifying trouble spots is the first step toward conquering your goals.

Five reasons you need a financial plan before a recession

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(StatePoint) With speculation swirling that the U.S. economy is heading for another recession, you might be wondering what you can do to protect yourself from feeling the pinch of a slowing economy.
     Experts agree that proactive and prudent financial planning is key to avoiding emotion-driven decisions and maintaining a long-term orientation during times of turmoil. Those who already have a financial plan should take the time to re-evaluate its goals and strategies to ensure it can withstand a dramatic market decline. If you do not have a financial plan yet, take the initiative to start putting one together. A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professional can provide you with guidance on creating and maintaining a comprehensive financial plan.
     Here are five reasons why you need a financial plan in place before a recession:
• Know Where Your Finances Stand. When markets are in turmoil and you are feeling scared, your personal situation should guide your decisions. The first step in developing a financial plan is to figure out where you stand, which includes getting a thorough understanding of your cash reserves, consumer debt and current retirement contribution level and savings.
• Balance Fear and Greed. Bull markets can make investors more hopeful that gains are perennial, leading them to assume too much risk. Conversely, when the market drops, fear takes over and makes them want to sell everything. A financial plan helps you to avoid impulsive actions and balance market highs and lows.
• Manage Your Cash. A sound financial plan ensures that you do not put money you know you will need in the short term at risk. Money you anticipate needing within a year or so should be kept in a safe place, like a checking, savings or money market account, a short-term Certificate of Deposit (CD) or a bond.
• Maintain a Diversified Portfolio. One of the best ways to prevent emotional swings is to create and adhere to a diversified portfolio that spreads out your risk across different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, cash and commodities.
• Take a Break from the Bad News. Once you have assessed your personal situation and made some choices, it’s smart to tune out from the constant news coverage. The drumbeat of bad news can lead to a cycle of negative thoughts, like “I am never getting this money back,” or “I will never retire.” Psychologists say such thoughts can distort reality, disrupt thinking and erode performance.
  To find a CFP professional who can help you prepare a financial plan, visit
  However dire a crisis may seem, having a long-term financial strategy will keep you on track to achieve your financial goals.