April is National Financial Literacy Month, which means it’s the perfect time for Americans to review their money situation and brush up on their financial education. Developing better money management skills makes it more likely that individuals will reach their financial goals. Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) can’t pass a basic financial literacy test.
To help Americans improve their financial lives, members of the American Institute of CPAs’ (AICPA) National CPA Financial Literacy Commission share the following tips.
USE CREDIT CARDS CAUTIOUSLY
“Credit cards allow people to make large purchases without carrying large amounts of cash, track spending and even earn rewards. However, when you find you’re unable to pay your balance off in full each month, you’re paying interest charges. And if you’re unable to make the minimum payment, it can result in fees, higher interest rates and a negative impact on your credit score. If you’re having trouble managing your credit card debt, tools like a credit card payoff calculator can help you map out a plan to pay down your balances and get a fresh start so your credit cards can start working for you.”
– Neal Stern, CPA member of the AICPA National CPA Financial Literacy Commission
IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO START SAVING
“A 401(k) can be one of your best tools for building a secure retirement. They provide two key advantages. First, the amount you put into your 401(k) account lowers the taxable portion of your salary in the current year. This means all contributions to your 401(k) grow tax free - you’ll only pay tax when the money is withdrawn. Second, many employers provide matching 401(k) contributions. If your employer does this, try to at least contribute the amount that gets you the maximum match; otherwise you’re walking away from ‘free money.’ Even a small contribution each paycheck can turn into a lot down the road. The AICPA’s 401(k) savings calculator can show you what starting today can do to support your retirement planning.”
– Michael Eisenberg, CPA/PFS member of the AICPA National CPA Financial Literacy Commission.
DO A FINANCIAL CHECKUP
“Knowing how much you have coming in compared to how much you’ve committed spend on things like rent, car payment, insurance and other bills is key to better understanding how much you actually have to spend on things like groceries, fun, and other financial goals like paying off debt faster. Making sure you keep enough set aside to at least pay the bills each month, then finding a way to keep the rest of your spending within what’s left over will help you avoid going into debt. Americans who need help managing a monthly budget can use the AICPA’s budget analysis calculator to run a report that will show them where their money is going and identify areas for improvement.”
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