How To Have a Great 2019

     Are you breathing a sight of relief yet? 2018 is over. A difficult year for many, and it’s nice to turn the corner on a fresh calendar year, yes?

     One of the best ways to make this year one that you can be excited about NEXT year, is if you get your finances finally handled right. And I have some basic starting steps that I tell people that I’d thought I would share with you here...

     #1 MOST CRITICAL: Resolve to become (and stay) debt free. Now, I'm not Dave Ramsey, but there's a reason why he's become so popular: his approach works. I'd say that can have a fixed-rate fixed-year traditional mortgage on your house -- but nothing else, please. No equity line of credit on your house. No car payments. Certainly no credit card debt. Because you simply have to learn to live within your income -- which, unfortunately, sometimes means going without. The millionaires among us really are frugal. So learn to enjoy that process, and it's a fantastic start.

     #2 Automate your savings (AKA Pay Yourself First). You can start by getting the entire match if your company offers a 401(k) plan. Usually this translates to saving 5% of your salary while the company contributes a 4% match, which is the fastest way to get an 80% return on your money. Most Americans forgo this match, believing they need to spend 100% of their salary. But you can learn to think like a millionaire and live well on 95% of what you make. you don't have a 401(k) plan, act like you do, and sock away 5% automatically.

     #3 Fully fund your 2018 AND 2019 Roth IRA. This is $5,500 in for ’18 and $6,000 for ’19 (and $6,500 & $7,000 respectively if you are older than age 50). If you can't manage the entire amount in January, put in $500 monthly. Automating deposits in an employer-defined contribution plan is easy. Fortunately, automating saving in a Roth IRA or a taxable savings plan is equally painless. Most brokers offer an automatic money link between your checking account and an investment account. Set your savings on autopilot, and you’ll get major momentum.

     Remember -- these steps build off one another, so if you already have done the first 3, here's your next step:

     #4 Save another 5% in a taxable investment account. Automating savings is great, automating investment is even greater. Key word here: automate. At this point, you're hitting a mark of saving 15-20% of your income. That's a fast-track to long-term prosperity.

Adriana Cuevas