Automatic savings are often the easiest way to put money aside without too much effort; diverting money into pre-tax retirement accounts directly from your paycheck or setting up an after-tax savings account are two popular options. Vanguard founder John Bogle calculates that most people need to save at least 15 percent of their income to be on track for adequate retirement savings.
Underearning is a major problem for many Americans, but it is possible to overcome. Personal finance author Barbara Stanny, who overcame underearning and also wrote a book on the topic, says the first step is to commit to earning more and to say "yes" to opportunities that allow you to do so.
According to Kate Northrup, author of "Money: A Love Story," you have to fall in love with your money before you can start managing it well. That's why she encourages people, especially women, to explore their feelings toward finances and where they might be struggling. "The way we interact with something, the energy we have or emotion we have, will determine the results we get. Most people deal with money from a place of fear, anxiety or debt, and that doesn't work as well as dealing with it from a place of love," she says.
It might be tempting to brag to your friends about your stellar credit score, but it's actually better to keep that information to yourself. That's because Facebook and other forms of social media are public places where fraudsters are also lurking and looking for personal information they can use against you. In general, when it comes to money, the less you share, the better.
Banks are increasingly using social media, including Twitter, to communicate with customers, especially when they're having problems. If you need to get the attention of your bank, feel free to do so over Twitter because you're likely to get a quick response. But never share any personal information, such as account details or your address, publicly.
Retailers are also very active on social media, and they often announce their biggest discounts to their followers and fans first. As a result, "liking" your favorite store's Facebook page or following them on Twitter can help you be among the first to know of big sales.
Car insurance policies vary by deductible amount, rental coverage and other key measures, and drivers are often surprised by those details after an accident when they need to rely on the coverage. Make sure you're familiar with your policy; state buyers guides can also help walk you through the various options. Many people are underinsured when it comes to life and disability insurance; check up on the coverage offered through your work and consider supplementing it.
Interest rates have been historically low since the Great Recession hit, but most financial advisors expect them to rise eventually, and possibly soon. To prepare, borrowers can pay off debts and homeowners can consider refinancing if they haven't already. (In fact, it might already be too late to lock in the lowest rates.) First-time buyers looking to make a purchase might want to consider doing so soon in order to take advantage of the still-low rates.
Karl Frank, author of "Go Tax Free" and a certified financial planner, says almost everyone can reduce their tax bill. "Most people pay more than we have to, and that's a shame," he says. Putting more money into pre-tax retirement accounts, investing in municipal bonds and starting your own business are a few of the ways to get started. Gay couples can also explore whether they're entitled to any refunds for the past three years or savings this year, now that the Internal Revenue Service recognizes same-sex marriages for tax purposes.
Beverly Cleary's "Ramona," first published in the 1950s, is still one of the best ways to explain a parent's layoff and the subsequent belt-tightening to children. Children's editors and librarians also recommend the classic Vera B. Williams' "A Chair for My Mother" and Brock Cole's "The Money We'll Save," as well as other books that explore tough topics with humor and educational plot points.