Seven Financial Moves to Make Now

*By Barbara Pronin

So you’ve started the New Year with resolutions to lose weight, get organized, and get your financial house in order. Time Magazine’s business and money mavens can’t help you much with the first two – but they do recommend seven financial moves you can make right now to improve your overall financial picture in 2013:

  • Refi your mortgage into a 15-year loan – At today’s low rates (about 3.36%), refinancing your 30-year mortgage of $250,000 into a 15-year loan will cost you less than $300 per month more and save you $220,000 over the life of the loan. Plus, you’ll pay off the loan in half the time. (Shop for a no- or low-cost refi.)
  • Open an online bank account – Online banks like ING Direct and Ally offer paper checks and/or online bill paying as well as higher interest rates than most brick and mortar banks.
  • Save early and often – Regularly putting away a percentage of every paycheck will add up faster than you imagine. If you think you can’t afford to save, start with one or two percent and work your way up as you realize it’s easier than you thought.
  • Buy top consumer brand stocks – Well-known brands tend to do well in any economy. Brands like Coca Cola, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson and Johnson have paid dividends every year for the last 25 years.
  • Transfer credit card balances – Some banks are offering 0% promotional rates for 12- and 15-month periods. If you are carrying a balance and paying more than that, it’s a no-brainer to shop for one of these money-saving offers.
  • Buy residential real estate – Home prices are rising, but interest rates are at historic lows. If you can, buy now to cash in later before you are priced out of the market.
  • Renovate wisely – If you are planning home improvements, invest in those that will likely raise your home’s value most when you decide to sell. Choose projects like adding a bath, installing double-pane windows, or updating the kitchen.