Several years ago I heard a speaker talk about being better by “just a little bit.” He made the point of comparing the top money winner on the PGA Tour from the previous year to one of guys at the bottom of the earnings list. The difference? Not much in terms of scoring average but a huge difference in money won on the tour. Here are some numbers from 2011:
Luke Donald, the top money winner on the PGA Tour for 2011, earned $6,683,214 playing golf. His scoring average was 68.86. Compare him to Jeff Maggert, who won $101,080 with a scoring average of 72.43.
Now making over $100,000 for playing golf isn’t too shabby but it doesn’t even compare to $6.6 million. The difference between these two golf pros in scoring was only 4.9 percent but the difference in earnings was massive — over 6,000 percent. Even a small difference can make a HUGE impact. And the numbers from any given year are pretty much the same: a 5-10% difference in scoring can mean hundreds of times more earnings.
The same holds true for our financial lives. Small changes can add up to substantial differences in how much money we have left over to save, spend, or invest for our future. So what small changes can you make to improve your financial situation today?
1. Student Loans
The problem: you can’t afford your student loan payments. Ive been there. It’s hard. I know. When money is easy to come by, and you’re 18 years old, you don’t realize the ramifications of taking out so much in loans.
The solution: consolidate those loans. In some cases you may be able to consolidate with your current lender but if you can’t, check out CU Student Loans. These are private loans through consumer friendly credit unions instead of traditional banks … and they have great rates too! Remember, those credit unions are not-for-profit and it makes a massive difference.
2. Savings Accounts
The problem: traditional savings. If you have money sitting in a traditional bank’s savings account, you’re losing out. Those guys are probably paying you one quarter of one percent interest … or less. On a $1,000 balance, that means you’ll earn about $2.50 – max. Feel rich?
The solution: move your money. Make the change to Ally Bank and you’ll earn more interest, up to 5 or 6 times the rate you earn at a traditional bank.
3. Checking Accounts
The problem: regular checking. Regular checking accounts at traditional banks are a pain in the wallet. Fees galore are cropping up and you’re being nickeled and dimed to access your own money while the bank is lending it out at exorbitant rates.
The solution: move your money to PerkStreet. Or better yet, don’t move your checking account at all! Just open an alternate checking account with the folks at PerkStreet and transfer your money on a regular schedule. Nu fuss, no muss. If you are so entrenched at your traditional bank that it would be a pain to move, simply move the amount you’ll spend each pay period and EARN REWARDS for simply spending what you were going to spend anyway. Yes, PerkStreet offers debit card holders the opportunity to earn rewards just like those offered by a credit card.
The problem: your insurance company has crept up their premiums. It really doesn’t matter if it’s your auto insurance, homeowner’s, renters, disability, medical or business insurance, insurers are constantly seeking ways to pad their own bottom line. The only ways they can do that is by charging more, earning more interest, or cutting their own expenses. Guess which one is easiest?
The solution: check out Insureme.com. These guys make comparing your current insurance rates easy. All you do is enter your information on their and then calculate how much you can save. Just a few of the insurers InsureMe.com can match you with include big names like:
- State Farm
The problem: you haven’t opened your online brokerage account. It can be intimidating to open an account but it has become easier and easier. Online brokerages are becoming ridiculously easy to open and use.
The solution: get that account opened. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Scottrade, optionsXpress (much more than just options, it’s a Charles Schwab company), or TradeKing, the important thing is to get an account opened and give yourself the opportunity to begin investing. After all, if you don’t have an account, you can never begin to invest in the first place.
6. Investing (part 2)
The problem: you don’t know how to invest properly. You may be scared about making the wrong decision and would prefer instead the steady hand of a professional investment advisor. But how do you select one?
The solution: use an investment advisor matching site. WiserAdvisor is the best in this category. You get to select the financial adviser that best matches your investment style and preferences. You hold all the cards and can make the decision whether to use any of their recommended advisers or not. All the advisors in their network are:
- Local to your community
What this means is that you can not only get the best advisor for your personal needs, but he or she lives in your area and isn’t commission based.
The problem: your mortgage rate is too high. High today is a relative term. I remember when my parents bought a home in the early 1980s and their rate was over 14 percent! Today, rates are in the 3 percent range. If your mortgage is anywhere over 5.01 percent, you could be losing money each and every month.
The solution: refinance – TODAY! Whether you use LendingTree or QuickenLoans (Quicken is the #1 lender on the Internet), you could be leaving money on the table. Just a one percent difference in your mortgage rate could eventually mean thousands upon thousands of dollars in your pocket.
8. Credit Cards
The problem: your credit cards have no rewards. If that little piece of plastic in your wallet is only working for the credit card company and you’re not being rewarded for your loyalty, it’s time to find another.
The solution: check out my credit card page. I’ve assembled some of the best cards for rewarding customer loyalty on my credit card page. If you don’t see one that meets your needs there, consider using Discover. Just always make sure you pay your credit card off each and every month.
9. Loans and Debt
The problem: debt and loans are eating your paycheck. You may see the light (now) but loan payments and debt are still consuming huge chunks of your take-home pay. You’re being stifled and have nothing left over after making your monthly payments.
The solution: pay off your debt faster. Easier said than done, right? Maybe not if you utilize peer-to-peer lending through Prosper. Prosper isn’t a bank, but a lending site where borrowers (who don’t want to pay the bank’s massive interest rates) are matched to lenders (who want to earn more than the pittance the bank pays on their deposits). Banks make money on the spread between those two and Prosper simply eliminates the middle-man in the transaction. It increases money for lenders and let’s borrowers get better rates too.