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Financial Education

Budgeting & Saving

5 Tips for a Financially Bright Year

With the holidays and all their hustle and bustle in full swing, you might be tempted to put off any new tasks. But wait! Don’t put this one off.

1. Maintain an emergency fund

Many financial experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a liquid, easily accessible savings account. If an emergency such as a job loss, major illness, home repair or other large expense strikes, these savings can help you avoid less desirable options for paying unexpected expenses, such as racking up credit card debt or tapping investment accounts — perhaps at a time when their value has fallen due to market conditions.

Smart move: Set up automatic transfer to your Rockland Trust savings account or money market savings account to help make saving easy.

2. Review and update your beneficiaries

You likely own at least one account on which you’ve named a beneficiary — think retirement plans, IRAs, life insurance policies, annuities and more. The beneficiary is the person (or entity) that will receive the assets in the event of your death. Choosing carefully is important because your named beneficiary supersedes any instructions in your will.

Smart move: Review (and update if necessary) beneficiaries on a regular basis or whenever a major life event happens, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth or death of a loved one.

3. Use up FSA dollars

If you have a calendar-year flexible spending account (FSA) or other health spending account through your employer, check the balance and use up the money in the account to avoid losing it. 1

Smart move: If you have money to use up, catch up with dental or doctor appointments before year-end or buy prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids (and batteries for them) or medical equipment such as a thermometer or blood pressure monitor.

4. Review your tax withholding

The amount of tax withheld from your paycheck is based on the number of allowances you claim on your Form W-4. If your employer withholds too much, you end up giving the government an interest-free loan and then getting a tax refund. If too little is withheld, you will owe taxes, and perhaps even a penalty. In either case, you can make better use of your money by having the correct amount withheld so that it just covers your tax bill.

Smart move: Any time your income or family situation change, ask your employer for a new W-4. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to figure out how much to have withheld.

5. Set up (or review) a spending plan

Keeping track of expenses and setting goals for spending is essential to making your money work for you. Whether you want to reduce debt, build savings or both, having a spending plan or budget helps you align your money with your goals and values.

Smart move: Track your finances using Rockland Trust’s Electronic Banking options.

1. Depending on the rules in your employer’s plan, you may have a grace period of up to two-and-a-half months to use up funds after the end of the plan year or you may be able to carry up to $500 forward to the following year.