To get what you want most in life, you need to first settle on exactly what that is. Make a list of things you want.
1. Figure out what you want
To get what you want most in life, you need to first settle on exactly what that is. Make a list of things you want. Decide which goals take priority and work toward the lesser goals only after the really important ones are well provided for.
Once you have your list together, rank it in order of importance.
2. Kick debt to the curb
Debt reduction is simple: Cut down on spending and put the extra cash toward debt.
To do that, you need to figure out where your money is going and cut out the extras you don't really need. If that's not enough, try lowering fixed expenses -- like refinancing your mortgage or negotiating lower interest rates with your credit card company.
Another option: Boost your income. If you always get a big tax refund, you're having too much withheld on your W4. If your paycheck's just not cutting it, look around for a better paying job, or take on a side gig. Once you have some extra cash, make a list of your debts and start paying off the ones with the highest interest rates first.
3. Got a 401(k) plan? Use it
If someone offered you free money, would you turn it down? Probably not. But that's what you're doing if you don't contribute to your 401(k). The more you put in, the more free money you get.
Why is it such a sweet deal? 3 reasons. You get an immediate tax break, because contributions come out of your paycheck before taxes. You also don't pay any taxes on the money while it grows. And -- bonus -- your job might even kick in little extra, too.
4. Open an IRA
You know what'll really make you rich? Making money without paying taxes. If your job doesn't offer you a 401(k) plan, or you already contribute to one but want to stash away more money, open an IRA. It works like a 401(k) but you can set it up yourself. The money you invest in your IRA will grow tax free. You might even be able to get a tax deduction on the money you put in -- or in the case of a Roth IRA -- pay no taxes on the money you take out.
IRAs are such a good deal that the government limits the amount of money you can contribute in a year. But if you have a 401(k) plan at work, you can stash money away in both accounts.
5. Dip a toe in the market
Got a little extra cash at the end of the month? We know a great place to stash it. Most rich people invest in stocks, but the markets can be intimidating to a new investor. Diversification? Asset allocation? Market swings? That's why mutual funds are a smart choice. They pool money from thousands of investors into a portfolio of stocks or other securities. Each investor in the fund gets a slice of the total pie, and the professional money managers do all the hard work for you by making the big investment decisions. There's a catch, of course: The managers charge an annual fee -- generally 0.2% to 1% of assets. So stick to the funds with lowest fees.
6. Buy a house
Most wealthy people also own their homes.
OK, so maybe you can't do that right now. But you can take some steps to get started.
First, request copies of your credit report from the three credit agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can get a free copy by going to annualcreditreport.com. Mistakes are common. If you find any, contact the agencies directly to fix them. If the report shows you have lousy credit, start taking steps to improve.
You'll also need to come up with cash for your down payment -- typically around 20% of the home's price. If you don't have enough to cover it, you have several options. First-time homebuyers can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty from an IRA, if you have one, though you'll owe taxes. Got a Roth IRA? Even better. You can withdraw any contributions you made without paying taxes or penalties. You can also receive a cash gift of up to $14,000 a year from each of your parents without triggering a gift tax.
Check whether your employer can help; some big companies will chip in on the down payment or help you get a low-interest loan from selected lenders. You can also tap a 401(k) for a loan from yourself.
Autor: Karen McGowan
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