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Here’s a handout Pazit distributed at the “Jewish Economic Survey” event tonight. We hope you find it helpful. Feel free to add comments with additional tips.

BUDGETING
1. Sign up at Mint.com or Thrive (justthrive.com) to gain a better picture of your finances. Add all your bank accounts, credit cards, and loans (student, car, etc.).  Sign up for automated reminder emails to make sure you pay your bills on time. (Late fee$ add up!)
2. Know what your after-tax income is. Guessing won’t work.
3. Use the after-tax figure to calculate your monthly expenses – rent, utilities, food, transportation. Be sure to take into consideration tzedakah you plan to give. Also, include expenses such as shabbos meals, lulav & esrog, mikvah payments, etc. Then, subtract your expenses from your income. You should have money left over for savings and investment. (Confused? See the Pazit Budget).

SAVINGS
4. If your savings account is earning you only pennies in interest, switch to a higher-yield online account like EmigrantDirect or DollarSavings. Right now, the rate is only 2%…but that’s better than 0.5%!
5. Take a good, hard look at your checking and savings accounts. Many banks charge fees or fines if you don’t maintain a minimum balance.
6. Ditto for ATM withdrawals. Try to visit your own bank’s ATM to minimize fees.

DEBT
7. If you have credit card debt, call up your credit card company and negotiate a lower interest rate. If that doesn’t work, find a new credit card with no transfer fees and a low interest rate (under 10 percent). That will save you hundreds of dollars in interest. Then, resolve to pay it all off!
8. Sign up to receive your FREE credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Choose only one of the three credit bureaus; that way, you can check your credit for free every four months. Make sure there aren’t any mistakes that are lowering your credit. A lower credit score means you’ll pay more for a mortgage or car loan down the road. Make a note on your calendar to do this again in four months.

RETIREMENT PLANNING
9. If your company still offers to match your 401(k) contributions, do it. It’s free money!
10. Have $100 (or more, if you can handle it – up to $5,000 a year) deducted automatically from each paycheck and deposited into a Roth or Traditional IRA. (The Roth allows you to invest after-tax dollars, which then grow tax-free). If your IRA is made up of at least 70% stocks (which it should be if you’re in your 20s), you’ll reap the benefits of dollar cost averaging (a fancy term that means that you buy steadily, month after month, rather than waiting for particular highs or lows).

The key to gaining a handle on your finances is being comfortable talking about money. Gain that comfort level by reading the business section of a daily newspaper (The Wall Street Journal’s Personal Finance section is great!) as well as magazines like Money. If you have any questions, email Pazit at info@pazit.org.

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