Personal Finance 
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Ten Minute Tip: Read Up On Current Events

For ten minutes each day, just scan through the headlines at major news publications like CNN, New York Times (or your local paper), and the like; get current with all the happenings in the world. You don’t have to read every article but when someone mentions that China is upset that the United States awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama (that’s on the front page of CNN right now), at least it won’t be the first time you heard about it.

How is this going to help your personal finances? Read Yahoo Finance, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal, some great blogs (like this one! :) ), and you’ll learn a little bit each and every day. Then, after a year, you’ll have read approximately 3,650 minutes, a little over sixty hours, of news that will help you in all phases of your life. Maybe today is the day you read about Roth IRAs for the first time, maybe today is the day you learn about hedge funds, or ETFs, or CDs. Scan the pages, don’t feel compelled to read everything, and you’ll be a more well informed person for it.

What sites are on your morning reading list that you think others should be checking out?


 Retirement 
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Ten Minute Tip: Join and Contribute to Your Company’s 401K

Are you employed? Does your employer offer a 401K (or 403B, or any number of similarly acronym’d up retirement plans)? Does your employer offer an employer match/contribution on dollars you contribute? If the answer is yes to all three, you better be contributing to your 401K. If your employer doesn’t offer a match, you should still be contributing to your own retirement though it’s not as pressing. It should take you less than ten minutes to sign up for your 401K unless your company is stuck in the stone ages. Give your HR a call or check out your company Intranet for a 401K enrollment form, fax/inter-office mail that baby over to HR/Benefits, and you should be all set. As for the what funds you should divvy up your hard earned money into, just wing it until the account is setup. You can figure all that stuff out later, time is of the essence!

For many recent hires, this is a non-issue because the Pension Protection Act of 2006 made employers auto-enroll their employees. So, for some, this tip took less than ten minutes! The next step is making sure you’re contributing enough. The law says that you’re auto-enrolled at 3% and then every year after that you’ll be bumped up 1% until you get to around 6% to 10%. Now, employers are not required to do this (they get out of some discrimination testing if they do), so there’s a chance your employer hasn’t done any of this (double check!). Also, this is what the employer must do, you can adjust it up or down or sideways as much as you want.

Let’s say your employer offers to match your contributions 50 cents to the dollar up to 3% of your salary. That means if you contribute 6% of your salary, they kick in 3%. Well, if you’re auto-enrolled at 3%, that means you’re leaving 1.5% of your salary on the table because you didn’t do anything. 1.5% doesn’t seem like much but:

  1. It’s free.
  2. In 40 years, with interest and years of 1.5% of your salary, that’s going to be a lot of money.
  3. It’s free.

So, make sure you’re enrolled and make sure you’re contributing enough. If you saw a twenty on the sidewalk, you wouldn’t just walk by it would you?


 Personal Finance 
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Ten Minute Tip: Clean Out & Reorganize Your Wallet or Purse

Huge Costanza WalletToday’s ten minute tip comes straight out of Seinfeld and the Costanza wallet, which is basically what most guy’s wallets look like after a few days or a few weeks of life. If you’re like me, you stick all your receipts in your wallet, despite the fact that they’re pretty much useless unless you’re getting reimbursed; and eventually these useless slips of paper seem to take over your wallet. If you have more receipts than you have actually bills of US currency… you have to clean out your wallet or your purse.

All kidding aside, in addition to just general cleaning, you should revisit which cards you have in your wallet or purse and think about whether you really need to be carrying them all the time. This is most important for credit cards or other cards that you use very infrequently and would be a pain in the butt to replace. I’ve lost my wallet before so, speaking from experience, I know that recovering everything is a huge pain. While credit cards are easy to cancel and replace, why have to go through the exercise if you hardly use the card at all? Why force yourself to remember which cards you have in your wallet when you can shelve it from your daily pack? I believe the same goes for anything else that might be important.

So, clean out and reorganize your wallet or purse Costanza!

(Photo: shareski)


 Banking 
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Ten Minute Tip: Setup Online Bill Payment

Get your checkbook, find ten minutes, and setup online bill payment for your credit cards, mortgage, and any monthly recurring bills you may have. Even if you don’t like the idea of paying online because you don’t “trust” that the payment will make it on time, set up the online bill payment just in case. Murphy’s law states that if you forget to make a payment to an important bill, you’ll make that mistake after the post office has closed… so beat Murphy at his game by setting up online payment so you can log on late at night and push the payment you forgot.

If you need an additional incentive, think of all the trees you’ll save by not using envelopes and all the money you’ll save by not having to use stamps (which will only get more and more expensive). Plus, if you setup online bill pay with a credit card, you can even earn points for paying with your card!


 Personal Finance 
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Introduction to the Ten Minute Tips Series

I’m going to start a new series here at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity called Ten Minute Tips where I will give a little personal finance tip that will take only ten minutes to complete and could potentially save you millions. That’s right, take ten minutes out of your day and you can save millions.

Okay, millions may be a bit of a stretch in terms of what you’ll save but these tips will be of tangible financial benefit, if you haven’t done them recently, and they really do only take ten minutes or less.

To give you a little sneak preview, the first few involve your credit, your bank accounts, and investing. I can see the anticipation already! :)


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