• Harry N. Stout

20 Money Ideas for 2020: Part 2


People are always looking for ideas to save money, increase their incomes, and protect their assets. To kick off your new year, here are the remaining 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, and taking time to implement these ideas can help reduce financial stress and anxiety.


Idea 11 – Get a Fulfilling Stage Income Checkup

Each year, just like most of us get an annual medical examination, we should get an examination of what we are saving for our later years and what income our efforts will generate. I cannot tell you how important it is to understand that you are very likely to have a very long life – living past age 85 – and you will need the money to pay your expenses in these later years.


Idea 12 – Fully Fund Your Emergency Fund

You can read the frequent media headlines stating that the vast majority of families can’t come up with $400 to cover the cost of an unexpected bill. We also read that with average monthly expenses of about $5,000, most families have less than that amount in savings for an emergency. These are not things you want to do in the FinancialVerse.


You should have at least six months of cash expenses on hand to protect you against the uncertainties of the FinancialVerse, including unexpected medical bills, the loss of your job, family emergencies, and home or car repairs. You can’t rely on others for these needs; you have to prepare for them yourself. Overall, on a longer-term basis, I am an advocate of building an emergency fund over time that equals one year of expenses.


Idea 13 – Refinance Your Student Loans

Student loan debt is strangling the financial flexibility of our nation. The total amount of such debt outstanding now exceeds $1.5 trillion. One thing most of these debtors should do is to look into refinancing their debt to reduce interest expense and shorten the time it takes to pay-off the loans. The Consumer Finance Protection Agency recently ran posts on this subject. Go to consumerfinance.gov for more information on this topic.


Factors you should consider include:

  • Refinancing private student loans

  • Understanding your loan rates

  • Considering possible tax consequences. For example, your new refinanced loan may not be considered a student loan for the purposes of the student loan interest tax deduction.

  • Are there benefits lost if a federal loan is refinanced?

As the CFPB states “Refinancing your student loan could help you take advantage of your improved credit profile, as well as today’s historically low interest rates. It can be a useful way to lower your monthly payments and build your savings, but be sure to consider the risks and benefits before signing on the dotted line.”


Idea 14 – Set Up an IRA

Many financial experts estimate that you may need up to 60 to 85 percent of your pre-retirement income to support your financial needs in later life. An employer-sponsored savings plan, such as a 401(k), might not be enough to accumulate the savings you need. Fortunately, you can contribute to both a 401(k) and an IRA, subject to the mandated income restrictions. An IRA can help you:

  • Supplement your current savings in your employer-sponsored retirement plan.

  • Gain access to a potentially wider range of investment choices than your employer-sponsored plan.

  • Take advantage of potential tax-deferred or tax-free growth.

You should try to contribute the maximum amount to your IRA each year to get the most out of this savings plans. Be sure to monitor your investments and make adjustments as needed, especially as retirement nears and your goals change.


Idea 15 – Ladder Your Savings Accounts

Many times savers hurt themselves by opening a single certificate of deposit (CD) at a local bank. In fact, there are advantages to parking your money in multiple CDs with different maturity dates by creating what is called a CD Ladder.


Building a CD ladder isn’t as complicated as it sounds. CD laddering involves a saver buying multiple CDs at once that mature at different intervals. For example, while you’re opening a one-year CD, you could open a three-year and five-year CD at the same time. By having different maturity dates you are protecting yourself against rates changing.


Idea 16 – Get A General Insurance Checkup

Make a detailed listing or inventory of all your general insurance policies. This would include car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, personal liability insurance, accident insurance, and any personal liability umbrella coverage you may have in place. Then arrange a time to meet with your general insurance agent to review your coverage and make sure they are still needed and cost effective.


Idea 17 – Change Your Money Mindset

One of the best ways to reduce financial stress and anxiety is to change your money mindset. What this means is to be more aware of how you approach money, understanding what your spending and saving habits are, and how you are explicitly making money decisions each day. Having this awareness and making it part of how you conduct your life will lead to better money decisions.


A great way to do this is to follow the 10 Must Dos that I have included in the book The FinancialVerse – A Common Sense Approach for Your Money.


Idea 18 – Look for A New Job or Side Hustle

As you look at your cash budget, there are typically two ways to improve your net cash flow – reduce expense outlays or increase cash inflow by taking on a second job. People take on second jobs to save for a house, pay-off unexpected bills, to have kids, fund their retirement, or for other long-term objectives. And while getting a raise, a promotion, or a new, higher-paying job is often how people go about increasing their incomes, those options aren’t always on the table.


So, how can you earn more money? You can look for a side hustle. In fact, according to a recent Bankrate post 37% of Americans have side hustles, that produce about $8,000 in earnings. Remember, in the FinancialVerse you need to get to positive cash inflow each month. A side hustle may enable you or your family to reach this goal.


Idea 19 – Review Your Living Expenses

What does it cost you to live? How much do people spend to live each year? Is there a baseline amount you need to live? These are questions people ask as they begin to really look at what they spend each year and how it compares to other people. Each year you should look at what you are spending to live and make decisions on the appropriateness of each expenditure.


Luckily, there are reference sources you can consult about what is a reasonable amount to spend on various categories. The most sourced reference is the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (bls.gov). Each year, BLS publishes a survey of data on consumer expenditures, income, and other demographic information. This comprehensive survey defines a consumer unit as a household with either a single person or two or more people living together who make joint financial decisions.


According to the BLS’s April 26, 2018, Consumer Expenditure Survey covering the year 2016, the average American household earns $74,664 and spends about $58,460 per year for shelter, food, clothing, entertainment, insurance, and other necessary items. Check out bls.gov for detailed information on how much consumers spend on all the major categories.

This information will help you compare what you and your family spend each year. Naturally, this amount can range either lower or higher depending on where you live. For example, a family living in New York City may incur substantially more to live compared to someone living in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. It is a great idea to show this information to your teenagers to help with their financial education and help introduce the realities of financial life.


What you spend to support your lifestyle is a key decision you make. Must you have the most stylish clothing? Should you purchase a new car every four years? Must you eat out several times per week? Do you need to attend all the latest movies, shows, and sporting events? Do you need to have all the available streaming services, or can you get by with just one?

If these are your choices, the end result is that your lifestyle will be much more expensive than someone who displays much more frugal habits such as keeping their car for twelve years, not owning a car and using Lyft or Uber, not dining out, or carefully maintaining an attractive but less stylish wardrobe. The lifestyle decisions are yours, and they do differ significantly from person to person.


The costs of your lifestyle determine your basic cash outflow needs in the FinancialVerse. These needs differ for each individual and are based on their daily decisions as to what is important.


Idea 20 – Spend2 in 2020

In the FinancialVerse – A Common Sense Approach for Your Money, there are 10 Must Do’s to manage your financial life. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average adult American under age 55 spends 10 minutes a day reading.


In order to improve your money knowledge, you need to spend 17 minutes a day or two hours per week (Spend2) learning and studying the world of personal finance. Knowledge is power. You must make boosting your financial literacy a priority. All the information you need is available for little or no cost. It can be accessed from several key sources that include websites, podcasts, and printed publications. Go to financialverse.com/spend2 for more information.


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Thanks again for your interest in improving your financial knowledge.

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