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4 Quick Steps for Establishing a Budget

1) Establish Your Goals: Write down your financial goals. Your goals should be attainable. To make tracking possible, be sure to include actual dollar amounts and reasonable time frames.

2) Know Your Income: Before you can establish your budget, you need to identify your income sources. Make sure to include only the money you receive (net pay).

3) Total Your Monthly Expenses: You’ll need to know how much money you’re spending every month. Be sure to include monthly recurring expenses such as groceries and debt payments as well as occasional expenses such as medical expenses.

4) Establish a Realistic Budget: Assess your monthly expenses using the 50-30-20 rule. According to this standard, fifty percent, thirty percent, and twenty percent of your spending should be applied to your needs (housing, food, car, etc.), wants (clothing, entertainment, restaurants, etc.), and savings and investments (retirement plan, emergency fund, extra debt payments, etc.), respectively. Consider reducing spending on items considered ‘wants’ should your expenses exceed your income.

Consider automating your budget and managing your expenses using personal finance software such as Quicken or Mint.

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Making the most of your retirement requires you to plan ahead and be prepared for unexpected expenses. Check out this article to learn about the different phases of retirement and how to budget accordingly.

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With the uptick in identity theft and data breaches, it's more important than ever to safeguard your financial information. Here are a several steps to protect your accounts and financial information:

1) Secure your hardware: Keep your security software current and ensure the security software is never turned off. Password-protect your devices and log out of your accounts when finished.

2) Change your password: Reset your financial log-in passwords at least every ninety days and don't use the same password for more than one account. Note: If you struggle with remembering your password, try using password management software. Be sure to review the encryption standards.

3) Secure your apps: Turn on the security settings for all apps related to your finances and choose the highest security setting available.

4) Read your statements: Review you credit card and bank statements each month and report any unfamiliar charges or claims.

5) Protect your papers: Keep your financial documents in a secure location and shred everything you no longer need before you get rid of it.

6) Limit social sharing: Don't give criminals the answers to your financial account challenge questions, like your pet's name, your mother's maiden name, or your favorite band.

7) Secure your credit: If you think you're vulnerable to identity theft, place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit reports.

Additional Resources:

- Password Management Software Reference

- Free Credit Report Information

- FTC Consumer Information

- AARP - Free Watchdog Alerts Sign Up