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Money Talk: Aug. 21, 2018

August 21, 2018

By GateHouse News Service

Are you feeling good about your finances? Or do phrases such as “account balance,” “credit score” and “retirement savings” give you a twinge of anxiety?

Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Only 24 percent of millennials have basic financial literacy, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education. When it comes to getting their financial house in order, most millennials would prefer not to set foot in that proverbial house in the first place.

Getting yourself out of debt and building enough savings to cover your expenses in an emergency is a marathon, not a sprint. Small, incremental changes in your financial habits today can make a big difference in your financial health months or even years from now.

Take these steps today to spruce up your money management process and get yourself on the path to financial health.

• Check your credit score. Before you start the work of realigning your finances, you should check your credit score and review your credit report. It helps to know where you stand financially, and the good news is, even if your credit score is not as high as you’d like it to be, you can take steps to improve it.

Establishing a history of on-time payments and maintaining a healthy credit utilization ratio are two things that can improve your credit score quickly.

• Knock down your debt. Track down all your accounts — checking, savings, investment, credit cards and other loans — and do the math to find out your net worth. That’s your benchmark to help you track your progress. In the beginning, the truth can hurt, however, knowing how much you have in savings and knowing how much you owe gives you a valuable blueprint for where you need to direct your energy.

From there, put together a household budget, and figure out where you can trim expenses, so you can pay ahead on your debts, one account at a time.

• Automate your savings. You’re much more likely to accumulate savings when you make the decision once and let the rest happen automatically. Log onto your bank account and set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings, starting with a small amount, preferably timed with your usual pay day.

If you can manage to set aside $85 per month, in a year’s time, you’ll have set aside a full $1,000. That’s a decent emergency fund for things such as car repairs and doctor bills.

• Open a retirement account. Here’s another way to automate savings. If you haven’t done so already, start contributing to a retirement plan. Even better, if your employer makes a plan and a match available to employees, sign up as soon as you can. If you can’t afford to contribute the full amount to get the full match, start with a small percentage and slowly add on.

THE LIST

According to Forbes, the highest-paid country music stars are:

1. Luke Bryan ($52 million)

2. Garth Brooks ($45.5 million)

3. Kenny Chesney ($37 million)

4. Zac Brown ($31 million)

5. Blake Shelton ($28 million)

6. Florida Georgia Line ($27 million)

7. Jason Aldean ($23 million)

8. Toby Keith ($22 million)

9. Brad Paisley ($20 million)

10. Dolly Parton ($19 million)

NUMBER TO KNOW

$2 billion: Co-founders and eight other former and current executives of the dating app Tinder recently sued the company’s current owners, seeking $2 billion in damages for allegedly manipulating the valuation of the company.

TECH TALK

Facebook bans Alex Jones for 30 days: Facebook became the latest social media site to limit conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from posting content. After YouTube removed multiple videos from Jones’ video channel, Facebook suspended his account for 30 days for violating its community standards.

“Our community standards make it clear that we prohibit content that encourages physical harm, or attacks someone based on their religious affiliation or gender identity,” a Facebook official said.

Facebook reported it had previously warned Jones about violating the community standards and then gave him the 30-day block for videos he had posted on the platform.

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