• Harry N. Stout

20 Money Ideas for 2020: Part 1


People are always looking for ideas to save money, increase their incomes, and protect their assets. To kick off your new year, we are presenting 20 money ideas to improve your financial world in 2020. The ideas are taken for the most part from my book, The FinancialVerse – A Common Sense Approach for Your Money. Taking time to implement these ideas can help reduce financial stress and anxiety.


Idea 1 – Create or Update a Cash Budget

You must have a budget or ongoing record of cash coming in and going out. I learned early in my career that what is not measured is not managed. You can’t navigate your journey if you don’t know how you are doing and where you are going. In the real life world of the FinancialVerse, this is done by understanding and managing your inflow and outflow of cash. Think of yourself as a plumber. You are trying to make sure your water pipe flowing cash is used as needed and does not have holes in it, leaking without your knowledge.


Idea 2 – Open A High Yield Internet Savings Account

Signing up for a high yield savings account online can take as little as five minutes at most popular online banks. It can result in you earning substantially more interest on your savings. All you will need to do is verify your identity, provide some information, and connect to one of your other bank accounts. These accounts can pay up to 200% more than accounts offered by brick and mortar banks.


Idea 3 – Get a Life Insurance Checkup

Just as you have routine health, dental, and even car checkups, your life insurance could use an annual checkup too. By taking time to review your current policies, personal circumstances, and changing needs, you may be able to:

  • Save money on your life insurance premiums

  • Potentially reduce your income tax liabilities with certain types of life insurance

  • Add to or reduce the amount of life insurance you have

  • Make sure that your policy is performing up to your expectations

  • Earmark policy proceeds for your favorite charities

Before you meet with the qualified financial professional who services your life insurance coverage, it would be helpful to tell them about any changes with yourself and your family, the financial changes you’ve encountered over the past twelve months, and what you hope to accomplish during your checkup.


Idea 4 – Shop Your Car Insurance

If you own or lease a car, it is a good idea to shop your coverage at least every year. You can do this at any time and possibly generate substantial savings. You can accomplish this in four easy steps:

  1. Decide what coverage you must have, the deductible you can work into your budget, and how you need to pay – monthly, quarterly or annually

  2. Look into four or five new companies

  3. Get quotes from each for the same coverage and payment terms

  4. Don’t be afraid to ask about available discounts such as:

  • Having an alarm in your vehicle

  • Parking your car in a garage

  • Buying multiple policies with the same company – home and car or rental coverage and car

  • Driving a low annual mileage

  • Being a long-time customer

  • Insuring more than one car

  • Having no accidents in three years

  • Having no moving violations in three years

The market for car insurance is very competitive and has seen much innovation in the past several years. Shopping your coverage could save you money and improve your protection.


Idea 5 – Inventory Your Debts and to Reduce the Outstanding Amount

I believe you should carefully look at all your debts at least annually and become fully aware of what you owe. Create a list that includes lender contact information, account numbers, and a rough estimate of amount owed for each loan in your name. You will also need an accurate listing of how much you owe to make it easier for any survivors to get an accurate sense of your affairs. This listing should include:

  • Credit cards: card issuer, number, and contact information.

  • Mortgage: lender information, escrow company contact info, purchase price, recent valuation estimate.

  • Personal loans: auto loan, student loans, other loans.

One of your key financial priorities should be to get out of debt as quickly as possible. The first step in this journey is a full assessment of what obligations you have accumulated.


Idea 6 – Review and Update all of Your Beneficiary Designations

Each year, it is a good money practice to make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date for your life insurance coverage, all your retirement related accounts such as 401(k)s, and your general insurance coverage. Many of these elections allow you to have primary and contingent beneficiaries if the primary has passed away, which you should do.


Remember, your insurance companies can only pay benefits to the beneficiaries you name if you die unexpectedly. They cannot pay who you intended but only who you have legally named. Normally, you can designate a number of people or entities such as a family member, a friend, a business partner, a charitable organization, or a legal entity such as a bank, trust, or your estate. While the beneficiary is your choice, some states have laws that regulate who you can name as a beneficiary for certain insurance coverage. These states are the community property states and usually include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. If you live in one of the above states or reside in another community property state, you should discuss the beneficiary designation with your tax advisor or accountant if you are designating a person other than your spouse as your beneficiary.


Idea 7 – Manage Your 401(k)

Today, most companies use 401(k) plans for creating retirement accounts for their employees. A portion of your paycheck, often along with a matching incentive from your company, goes into an account and you are charged with managing the allocation of those funds into an offering of investment products.


Gaining a grasp of some of the 401(k) plan foundations will help you manage your fund with greater authority and ease. With the right basic principles in place, you'll be in a better position to make the decisions that relate to your individual financial situation.


Each year you should look at the investment diversification, investment performance, and expense charges, including all fees you are paying for your plan. This should result in you re-balancing the investments in your account at least annually, reassessing how much you are contributing to the plan including making sure you are contributing enough to get your company’s matching contribution and taking advantage of any related benefits offered by your employer.


Idea 8 – Take Care of Your Body and Property

One of the biggest life lessons is to prepare in advance by keeping things in good working order and preserving them for the long haul. This includes all that you own including your personal physical and dental health. For all the physical assets you own, a little maintenance can save you big repairs to your car, home, or computer equipment. Get annual health checkups, the 10,000 mile car service, and annual heating and cooling maintenance services.


Idea 9 – Review and Adjust Your Income Tax Withholding

The federal income tax you pay each year is a pay-as-you-go tax. Amounts are taken from your paychecks each time you get paid. You can avoid surprises, such as owing a large amount to the government at tax filing time, by checking the withholding amounts. The IRS recommends that everyone do a periodic Paycheck Checkup. You can do this by using the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov. To learn more about how to manage your withholding, use the instructions in IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.


The IRS suggests that taxpayers with more complex situations may need to use Publication 505 instead of the Tax Withholding Estimator. This includes employees who owe the alternative minimum tax or tax on unearned income from dependents. It can also help those who receive non-wage income such as dividends, capital gains, rents, and royalties. The publication includes worksheets and examples to guide taxpayers through these special situations.


Remember, in the FinancialVerse after-tax cash income is most important. Taking the appropriate actions to save tax dollars and to pay the correct amounts are essential.


Idea 10 – Look Into Long-term Care Insurance

As a country, we have not fully planned for the costs of providing care to an ever-aging population. Most people believe, incorrectly, that Medicare will fully provide for the costs of caring for their aging and sick family members. In reality, Medicare does not pay for the costs of long-term care. The upcoming wave of people needing assistance for medical and cognitive problems is just starting. Neither our government nor our households have budgeted for the cost and lifestyle impacts of this aging wave of people. You should look into getting some long-term care insurance coverage in place for yourself and your aging parents, if they have not secured coverage themselves.


Above are ten ideas that can save you money and improve your financial world. Consider which of them can help you reach your goals.


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2020 by NelsonWells, LLC

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