NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – You're well past the age of innocence. But admit it: When it comes to meeting your financial goals, you're not past the impatience of a first-grader on a car trip.
You're always wondering: Aren't we there yet?
If you're frustrated with how far you haven't come at this stage, you may want some ideas about how to hit the gas on your building wealth or reducing debt.
With that in mind, here are four ASAP strategies that may help.
Strategy No. 1: Get out of the way.
When was the last time you regularly deposited money into your savings or brokerage accounts? No, not your 401(k) – you probably have that covered through your automatic payroll deduction.
Of the more than 100 clients certified financial planner Mari Adam works with, most are good about not touching what's in their savings and brokerage accounts. But "they won't put anything in," she added. "I can't think of a single one who makes contributions voluntarily."
You know how it goes: Money hits your checking account; you make a mental note to transfer some of it to savings. Then you don't.
"The longer you leave it in checking, the more likely it will vanish," Adam said. That's why she recommends clients set up payroll deposits of $100 to $250 into their savings and brokerage accounts.
The real secret to making your savings grow, she said, is simple: "Try to get it away from you."
Strategy No. 2: Give net worth a chance.
Credit card debt is like a pit of quicksand for your net worth.
Paying off your highest rate debt first is one of the fastest (and cheapest) ways to become debt-free, said certified financial planner Patricia Jennerjohn.
Here's the strategy: First, figure out how much you can afford to pay toward credit card debt every month. Say it's $400.
Next, divvy up the $400 in the following way: Pay the minimums owed on all your cards. Then apply whatever is left to your highest rate card.
So, for example, say you have $10,000 in credit card debt over four cards. The first has a $5,000 balance with a 20 percent APR; the second has a $2,500 balance at 18 percent; the third has a $1,250 balance at 16 percent and the fourth has a $1,250 balance at 14 percent.
You'll pay the 2 percent minimums due on all the cards (for a total of $200), then you'll apply the remaining $200 you've earmarked for debt payments to the $5,000 card. In effect, you're paying $300 a month to that card ($100 minimum +$200 extra).
Once that card is paid off, you apply that $300 to the next highest rate card (with the $2,500 balance) in addition to the minimum you've been paying. When it's paid off, apply those payments plus the minimum to the next highest rate card, and so on.
Continue with this strategy until all your balances are zero.
Using this method in the example above, you'd be debt-free in 2 years and 3 months and will pay less than $2,700 in interest, Jennerjohn said.
If you'd paid the $200 in minimums and then evenly divvied up the $200 remaining ($50 to each of the four cards), it would take you three years and $2,939 in interest to be debt free.
Or if you just paid the minimums on all the cards, it would take you over nine years and more than $9,600 in interest.
Strategy No. 3: Minimize the cost of your home.
Prepaying your mortgage can save you tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in interest if you're in the early years of your mortgage (when your payments are mostly interest).
Certified financial planner Kim Dignum often advises clients to round up the amount they pay on their mortgage every month. "Get in the habit of it, and you don't feel it," Dignum said.
|PREPAY AND SAVE?
Say you have a $200,000, 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 7 percent. Your monthly payment will be about $1,330. If you round up to $1,400 (an additional $70 per month), you'll pay your loan off in just over 26 years, and you'll save $48,000 in interest.
You can save even more on a biweekly payment plan, in which you pay half your monthly mortgage payment every two weeks, for a total of 26 weeks. That translates into an extra month of mortgage payments (or an additional $1,330) every year.
With that same 30-year mortgage, you'll save over $68,000 in interest, and pay off your mortgage in under 24 years.
But banks can charge hefty fees to set up a biweekly plan. To achieve the same or better results for free, just add 10 percent extra to your monthly mortgage payments, suggests David Bach in his book, "The Automatic Millionaire." (By doing so in the example above, you'd pay an extra $133 a month, and save more than $77,000 in interest.)
A prepay strategy may not make as much sense, if your contract imposes prepayment penalties or your rate is so low that alternate savings opportunities would earn you a lot more.
Strategy No. 4: Divide and conquer.
Once you're done paying the bills every month, with some luck you'll have some discretionary income left over.
Dignum recommends you earmark a third of it for anything that gives you gratification, another third for your short-term goals and another third for your long-term goals.
And don't make the mistake certified financial planner Rick Applegate sees many people make as their income grows. "A lot of people confuse income with wealth," Applegate said. The more they make, the more they think "they deserve to live at a certain standard of living," he said.
Whatever net-worth building strategy you choose, rest assured you're doing yourself a favor.
It's always a good idea to "pay yourself as you go," Adam said. "Tomorrow, you don't know what's going to happen."