If you make one new year’s resolution this year, make an investment in your financial future.
Here are 7 smart financial moves for 2019.
1. Refinance student loans
U.S. Secretary of Education says that student loans are now a “crisis.”
When you refinance student loans, you consolidate your existing student loans into a new, single student loan with a lower interest rate and single monthly payment. There are no fees to refinance student loans, and no prepayment penalties means you can pay off your student loans earlier. With student loan refinancing, you can choose a fixed interest rate or variable interest rate, and can choose a loan repayment term between 5 and 20 years. If you plan to keep your federal student loans for public service loan forgiveness, forbearance or deferral, then you may not want to refinance federal student loans. However, many student loan refinance lenders allow you to pause payments if you face financial hardship or lose your job.
This student loan refinancing calculator shows you how much money you can save compared to your current student loans.
2. Consolidate credit card debt
If you have credit card debt, it may be your most expensive form of debt. With high, variable interest rates, credit card debt can hurt your bottom line.
You can help control and potentially lower your credit card debt payments through credit card consolidation with a personal loan. A personal loan, or credit card consolidation loan, is an unsecured loan ranging from $1,000 – $100,000 that typically can be repaid within 2 to 7 years.
When you consolidate credit card debt with a personal loan, you receive a fixed interest rate loan to repay your credit card debt. With a good to strong credit score and income, you could receive a lower interest rate than your existing credit card interest rate. For example, the average credit card APR today is 17%, while personal loans start at about 6%.
3. Get a side hustle
Improve your income and pay off debt with a side hustle. From consulting and web design and copy editing to carpentry, you can monetize your talents. Platforms like Fiverr are one option to offer your services and get hired. You may find that your side hustle become a full-time gig, which can also provide more flexibility if you want to escape the 9-5.
4. Start an emergency fund
The Federal Reserve has found that 40% of Americans don’t have the cash to pay for an emergency expense. Whether it’s an unforeseen medical expense, home repair or unemployment, you never know when an emergency will strike. Make the unexpected more expected by building a financial foundation now. That means establishing an emergency fund with at least six to nine months (preferably more) of cash to cover such unforeseen expenses. Make sure that cash is in a separate bank account that isn’t co-mingled with your living expenses.
5. Improve your credit score
Your credit score is a gateway to financial freedom. Your credit score also can help you access credit and receive lower interest rates. FICO credit scores are among the most frequently used credit scores, and range from 350-800 (the higher, the better). A consumer with a credit score of 750 or higher is considered to have excellent credit, while a consumer with a credit score below 600 is considered to have poor credit. How can you raise your credit score? Make on-time payments and don’t skip any payment. Manage your credit card utilization (ideally 30% or lower). Improve your debt-to-income ratio (increase income, lower debt or both).
6. Use your tax refund to pay off debt
A tax refund may be an exciting surprise, but your best use of your tax refund may be to repay debt. If you have student loan debt, credit card debt, mortgage debt or any other form of consumer debt, use your tax refund to make an extra debt payment. Contact your loan servicer to ensure that your lump-sum payment is applied to your principal balance and not next month’s payment.
7. Get a 0% APR rewards credit card
If you have credit card debt, a 0% APR credit card can be a helpful tool.
A 0% APR credit card gives you 0% interest on your credit card debt balance for a certain amount of time, such as 12 months or longer. With a 0% APR credit card, you can transfer your existing credit card balance to a new credit card and not owe any interest until the 0% APR period ends. Make sure you pay the minimum payment each month. Many of the best 0% APR credit cards also offer 0% APR on new purchases during the grace period as well. The goal is to repay your credit card debt in full before the grace period ends so you won’t owe interest on the outstanding balance.