There are a number of things you can do to put armor around your finances that won’t cost you a lot. There are also some simple things that you can do to bolster your job security and boost your potential income. Check out these ways to safeguard your financial future for $200 or less.
The original article has been edited here for length (…) and clarity ([ ])
1. Get renter’s or homeowner’s insurance
You can protect nearly all of your belongings from theft, fire, and other disasters by paying a monthly insurance premium that is often less than $200. Homeowner’s insurance can protect you from lawsuits, natural disasters, and other unexpected calamities. In many cases, your policy will protect your property even when you’re not at home. If you don’t own the place you live, your belongings can be protected for less than $20 a month with renter’s insurance.
Bad things can happen. We all want to pinch pennies, but insurance is an expense we should all try to budget for if we want to avoid financial tragedy.
2. Get life insurance
…Life insurance will replace any lost income, and it’s not very expensive to have a policy. With term life insurance, you pay a fixed monthly or annual premium to be covered for a specific amount over the course of a specific term. For example, you might purchase $1 million in coverage for a 20-year term. In most cases, you can get a very good life insurance policy for under $200 per month.
3. Contribute to an IRA
If you open a Roth IRA, you can contribute up to $5,500 each year and invest in almost anything. Since money contributed to a Roth IRA is taxed upfront, all future withdrawals are tax-free. If you have $200 a month, this will get you nearly halfway to that maximum contribution. A $200 monthly contribution over several decades could result in $1 million or more when you retire.
Another benefit of a Roth IRA is that you can withdraw your contributions (but not your earnings), at any time, without additional tax or penalty. While you shouldn’t ever dip into retirement savings if you can avoid it, the added flexibility could help you get through a financial emergency.
4. Take advantage of 401(k) matching funds
If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, it’s a great idea to contribute, because you can invest money in a selection of mutual funds, and any money you put in gets deducted from your taxable income. Plus, most employers will match contributions up to a certain amount — in other words, free money. Thus, a $200 contribution each month could mean $400 invested. That’s $4,800 a year that can grow into a hefty sum for retirement.
5. Craft a will
Having a will is especially important if you have a family and a lot of assets. A will offers guidance as to who gets your financial assets after you pass away, as well as who is responsible for any dependent children you leave behind. If something happens to you, you need to know that the people who care about you will be taken care of. The good news is that it’s fairly easy to write a will and it can be done cheaply.
Legal Zoom and similar online services will allow you to file a will for as little as $69. Even if you go through an attorney, you may only spend a few hundred dollars. A will is a good investment, because without one, your family members may be stuck with astronomical legal bills to sort out the ensuing confusion after your death.
6. Meet with a financial adviser
For $200, you are unlikely to get a financial adviser to meet with you regularly or manage your investments themselves but there are fee-only advisers who would charge that much for an hour or so, which is enough time to get some basic advice and determine if you are on the right track financially. Periodic meetings with a fee-only adviser can help you develop a simple financial plan and identify a few good investments. These sessions could pay for themselves easily in the long run.
7. Get a home inspection
This is absolutely essential if you are buying a new home but, even if you’ve lived in the home for a while, it’s not a bad idea to have a professional come and examine the house. The inspector could come across problems like insect infestation or plumbing leaks before they get too bad. They will advise you of any aspects of the house that are in violation of building codes and pose a potential legal risk. Inspections for small homes can cost less than $200 and are a worthwhile investment.
8. Service your car
It’s common for people to postpone oil changes and scheduled maintenance for their automobiles but regular maintenance is the key to avoiding a massive car repair bill. Take your car in every few thousand miles to have professional mechanic change the oil, rotate the tires and inspect the car for any serious problems. A typical service visit like this will cost under $100 and may stave off thousands of dollars in repairs later. Plus, the longer you can keep your car running, the less likely you’ll find yourself paying thousands of dollars for a new one.
9. Review your credit report
This can be had for far less than $200. In fact, you are legally permitted to review the credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus once each year at no cost. An annual check of your credit report will help you stay clear of fraud attempts and be aware of any errors on the report that may be impacting your finances. A healthy credit report is a ticket to a healthy financial picture, so there’s no downside to reviewing it each year.
10. Get some job training
Looking to get into graphic design? Consider taking a boot camp class in Adobe InDesign. Would your career take off if you knew how to code? Take a crash course in Python. For $200, you won’t be able to earn a Ph.D., but you may gain some skills that your employer — or another one — might find valuable. With fresh skills, you’ll be more likely to keep the job you have and may be more likely to land the job you want.
11. Get a professional certification
Depending on the industry, you may benefit by having a designation next to your title, as a way of indicating you have a specific skill set or professional knowledge. Some certifications can be expensive, but others can be had simply for the cost of the exam. (Obviously, you have to pass the exam to get the certification.) There are certifications in nearly every industry, so check to see if one is available to help you.
12. Set up an LLC
This may not apply to everyone, but it’s important for those who are in business for themselves. By setting up a limited liability corporation, you essentially protect your personal assets from liability. For example, if you if you make a living mowing lawns and get sued, the plaintiff can only go after money associated with your lawn mowing business. Setting up an LLC makes it easier to start a business without putting your entire financial health at risk. You can set up an LLC online for less than $100.
13. Get a physical
Medical bills can cripple your finances, even if you have health insurance. You can avoid high doctor’s bills by seeing your doctor once a year for a checkup. They will check your vital signs, do some blood work and run some other tests. They will let you know if you are at risk for any serious health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. A single doctor visit now could save your life and save you lots of money.
14. Get a nice suit
It’s a common saying that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Dressing professionally won’t make you financially secure on its own, but it could give you that slight edge you need to grab that promotion or a raise. If you have a job interview, you’ll want to invest in some appropriate attire even if the office has a casual dress code. You don’t need to spend a ton; a decent suit can be had for $200 or less.
15. Learn to golf
Some of the best networking can happen out on the links but, if you can’t swing a club, you’ll miss out. You can get a serviceable set of clubs for $200 or less, and a handful of lessons is about the same. You won’t become the next Jordan Speith, but you’ll be able to hold your own while schmoozing with the boss.
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