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‘Spring cleaning’ for your finances: 12 money moves to make right now

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‘Spring cleaning’ for your finances: 12 money moves to make right now
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Spring cleaning can mean tidying up your wallet or pocketbook, as well as your closet.

In the spirit of renewal, here are 12 financial moves you should make this spring. Some are annual rituals, or should be. Others are tasks we tend to put off, but shouldn’t.

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1. Revisit your resolutions

Many of us set New Year’s resolutions for 2024 around spending and saving, borrowing and earning, but fewer of us followed through on them.

“For a lot of people, a top money goal was paying off credit card debt or starting an emergency fund,” said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet. Spring is “the perfect time to see if you’re making any progress,” she said.

And what if you’ve made zero progress?

“For those of us who fell off track, there’s something called a reset button,” said Ashley Folkes, a certified financial planner in Birmingham, Alabama. “Spring offers the perfect opportunity to restart where we left off, without dwelling on regrets.”

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2. Clean your financial ‘junk drawer’

Spring offers a chance to sort through that drawer – or box, or unused corner of the dining room table — where you stash financial paperwork to deal with on some unspecified future date.

“You know the one I’m talking about, where you toss all your statements and bills, intending to sort them out later,” Folkes said.

Working through the neglected papers is a great way to ease financial stress, he said. Throw some away. File some away. Deal with the rest, one way or another.

3. Start a 2024 tax folder

Speaking of papers: If you haven’t already, consider setting up a folder to stow all your tax documents for 2024: receipts, donation forms, and anything else you need to report or plan to deduct. Better still, set up one real folder, and another on your laptop, says Jeff Farrar, a certified financial planner in Shelton, Connecticut.

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This tip comes from Jeff Farrar, a certified financial planner in Shelton, Connecticut.

4. Watch that withholding

While you’re at it, look at your W-4 form and make sure you are withholding the right amount of your paycheck.

“Since taxes are on our mind, with April 15 coming, why not get better prepared for next year’s taxes?” Farrar said.

Will you get a refund next year, or will you owe? Most of us have a lot more control over that question than we think, said Jeff Jones, CEO of H&R Block. You may want to reap a large tax refund to help your family’s cash flow. You may prefer to limit your withholding so that you hold onto more of your paycheck until tax time. The decision is yours.

“In general, you can actually control the outcome,” he said. “We try to remind people, it’s really a choice you can make.”

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Most of us have fairly predictable income. Take a look at your last few tax returns. Study the pattern. Are your earnings trending up, or down? Then, consult a tax professional.

Taxpayers straightforward returns “can be in much more control if they just get some expert help and think about withholding changes on their W-4 at the beginning of each year,” Jones said.

5. Talk to your tax preparer

More broadly, spring is a great time to have a conversation with the person who prepares your taxes.

“Aside from housing, taxes are most people’s largest annual expense, so it deserves more attention than pulling together your W-2 and 1099s” and sending them in, said David Flores Wilson, a certified financial planner in New York.

“Our advice is to have a thoughtful, proactive conversation with an accountant, CPA, or financial planner after the spring tax deadline so that you can strategize what you can do the rest of the year to lower your taxes prior to next spring,” he said. “Perhaps there are deductions or credits you weren’t aware of.”

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6. Max out your retirement plan

You can contribute to an IRA up to April 15 and have the money count toward your 2023 savings. The contribution limit for 2023 is $6,500 if you’re under 50, $7,500 if you’re older.

Even better, get an early start on contributing to your IRA for 2024. The longer the money sits in your retirement account, the longer it can accrue interest.

“There is a 15-month window to make IRA contributions for any given year,” said Mary Ryan, a certified financial planner at Vanguard. “The earlier you make it, the more you benefit from the compounding effect,” earning interest both on the money you’ve saved and on the interest it has already reaped.

Spring is also a good time to challenge yourself to contribute to a workplace 401(k), Wilson said.

Those plans have higher contribution limits: $23,000 in 2024, plus an extra $7,500 if you’re 50 or older.

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“Maxing out 401(k) contributions can lower your taxes and get you closer to financial independence,” Wilson said. “Our advice is to marginally increase your contributions every couple of months, up to a level that’s uncomfortable, then back off a little.”

Not saving for retirement? Now is a good time to start.

“Even if you can only save a little right now, getting started is very important, because you want to give your retirement savings time to grow,” said Terri Fiedler, president of retirement services at Corebridge Financial, a financial services company in Houston. “Ideally, you’ll be contributing enough to at least maximize what your employer will match. And if you’re not there yet, look for opportunities to increase your contributions over time.”

7. Name your beneficiaries

Most retirement plans and life insurance policies include beneficiaries: The folks who get the money if you die.

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Many of us procrastinate in naming them. In the spirit of spring cleaning, why not name them now?

8. Dust off your estate plan

Speaking of beneficiaries: Anyone with an estate plan should review it every year, or at least any year when a major life event plays out, like a job change, marriage, divorce or arrival of a new child, experts advise.

“An estate plan isn’t something you can set and forget,” Ryan said.

Consider whether you need to update any part of the plan, including your beneficiaries.

9. Book your 2025 vacation in 2024

Setting up vacation plans a year early saves money and gives you more choice of flights and lodgings, experts say. And then there’s the psychological value.

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“Studies have shown the anticipation of a vacation is half the psychic value you get out of it,” Farrar said. “So, enjoy this summer’s family vacation, but put next year’s on the calendar, as well.”

While you’re at it, he said, “dig out your passport and check the expiration date. Nothing worse than getting ready for an international vacation and realizing your passport is about to expire.”

10. Review your investment portfolio

“You don’t need to monitor your portfolio on a daily basis,” Farrar said, but spring is an ideal time to review your asset allocation and make sure it suits your needs.

Your mix of stocks, bonds and other investments can drift over time, and your portfolio objectives change.

“Check to see if your allocation of stocks vs. bonds is where you want it to be,” said Maureen Demers, a certified financial planner in North Andover, Massachusetts.

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11. Invest in high-yield savings

Yields on savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts and other savings vehicles have been up for the last year or two, along with interest rates generally.

Yet, many people “are still holding large cash balances in suboptimal, low-yielding vehicles,” Wilson said.

If your savings isn’t earning 5% annual interest, or close to it, consider transferring the balance into a high-yield account.

Growing debt: Our credit card balances threaten to swamp our savings. Here’s how to deal with both

12. Check your credit card

Credit card debt is rising, along with credit card interest rates. Now is a good time to take a good look at your card, especially if you carry a balance from month to month, Palmer said. The key question: “Are you paying more interest than you realize?”

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Credit card rates change over time, and lately, they’ve been going up.

If the APR on your card is rising, Palmer said, then it might be a good time to shop around for a new card.

Daniel de Visé covers personal finance for USA TODAY

Finance

Payflows Raises $26 Million for All-In-One Finance Platform

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Payflows Raises $26 Million for All-In-One Finance Platform

French FinTech Payflows has raised $26 million for its all-in-one platform for finance teams.

The company announced the funding on LinkedIn as it emerged from stealth Monday (April 22), saying that its platform would “set finance teams free from boring manual work.”

In less than 18 months, Payflows said, “we built a suite of procurement, payments, cash management and cash collection modules which are best-of-breed in their category and combined into an all-in-one platform.”

“We are forever grateful to our first customers — amongst some of the best forward-looking European finance and procurement teams — for their belief in our big vision and our mighty team. Our number one motivation is to make their lives easier.”

And that’s something most organizations are looking for in 2024, as PYMNTS wrote last week.

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“More and more organizations are recognizing the need to update and modernize what has historically been a manual, paper-based process — but one that’s also very mission critical to the business function,” Kat Battle, product manager for Complete AP at Bank of America, told PYMNTS in an interview last November.

Battle spoke of a client she had recently worked with who was “hand signing 7,000 checks per month and mailing them out.”

That situation had opened that company up to fraud, she said. Aside from the cost savings associated with accounts payable (AP) modernization, automating away legacy bottlenecks also helps make business payments more secure.

“AP automation solutions can automate 75% of the manual steps required for paper-based methods, leaving only the control pieces of the process behind like approving invoices, approving payments,” she said.

By making the streamlining of accounts receivable (AR) processes a priority, CFOs hope to unlock liquidity trapped in inefficient systems, thus putting their businesses on a more stable financial footing, PYMNTS wrote.

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“And, ultimately, by addressing their top worries, CFOs can better position their companies to navigate the uncertainties of the global economy, ensuring not only survival but also the potential for growth and sustainable success,” that report said.

“Chief value officer, or CVO, might be a more suitable title in the future for this position where you’re looking at not just financial analysis, reporting and controls, but value creation and how to use those resources to drive value creation for the company,” LiquidX CFO Abhishek Khandelwal told PYMNTS.

“It’s critically important to strike a balance in being a financial steward of the company and at the same time supporting the innovation that can drive future growth.”


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Scholarships to help finance your study abroad: A country-wise guide

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Scholarships to help finance your study abroad: A country-wise guide
Studying abroad has long been seen as a valuable opportunity for students to enhance their academic credentials, gain exposure to different cultures, and build a global network. Yet, the high costs associated with international education often make it challenging for many to pursue these dreams. Scholarships, therefore, play a critical role in making education abroad accessible to students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

Scholarships can cover tuition fees, living expenses, travel costs, and other related expenditures, significantly reducing the financial burden on students and their families. This support allows students to focus on their studies and fully immerse themselves in the educational experience. Beyond the financial assistance, scholarships can also offer mentorship, internships, and networking opportunities, providing a well-rounded experience that extends beyond the classroom.

Here’s a country-by-country break up of all the scholarships available to you

Scholarships to study in the United States

Indians seeking scholarships to study in the United States have various options to consider. Many prestigious programs offer financial assistance to international students, including Indians, providing opportunities to study at renowned American universities.

(Join our ETNRI WhatsApp channel for all the latest updates)

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Here are some notable scholarships specifically available for Indian students to study in the US:

1. Fulbright-Nehru Scholarships

The Fulbright-Nehru program is one of the most prominent scholarship opportunities for Indian students. It provides funding for various academic pursuits, including Master’s degrees, doctoral research, and post-doctoral research. The scholarship covers tuition, airfare, living expenses, and other related costs.Here are all the details2. Tata Scholarship for Cornell University
This scholarship is for Indian undergraduate students seeking admission to Cornell University. Funded by the Tata Education and Development Trust, it aims to support Indian students who demonstrate financial need and are admitted to undergraduate programs at Cornell.

Here are all the details

3. S.N. Bose Scholars Program
This program offers Indian students pursuing science and engineering a chance to study and conduct research in the United States. It is designed for Indian students enrolled in Bachelor’s or Master’s programs in India and seeking research internships at select American universities.

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Here are all the details

4. The Stanford Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship
This fellowship is for Indian students who wish to pursue an MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business. It provides financial support to candidates from India with the potential to become leaders in the business sector. The fellowship is highly competitive and covers tuition and associated fees for the two-year program.

Here are all the details

5. Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation Scholarships
The Inlaks Foundation offers scholarships to Indian students to pursue graduate studies in the United States. The scholarships support various fields, including fine arts, architecture, applied sciences, and humanities. The award covers tuition, travel, and living expenses.

Here are all the details

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Scholarships to study in the United Kingdom

Studying in the UK is a sought-after goal for many Indian students, but it can be costly. Fortunately, there are several scholarships available to help cover the costs of tuition and living expenses. Here’s an overview of some prominent scholarships available for Indian students to study in the UK:

1. Chevening Scholarships
A prestigious program funded by the UK government, Chevening Scholarships are awarded to outstanding students from around the world, including India, for postgraduate study in any subject. They cover tuition fees, a living allowance, travel costs, and more.

Here are the details

2. Commonwealth Scholarships
These scholarships are aimed at students from Commonwealth countries, including India, who wish to pursue master’s or PhD programs in the UK. They cover tuition fees, airfare, and a living allowance.

Here are the detais

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3. Great Scholarships
Offered by the British Council, these scholarships are available to Indian students for postgraduate studies in the UK. They are funded by the UK government and various UK universities, providing a specific amount towards tuition fees.

Here are the details

4. Felix Scholarships
Available to Indian students pursuing postgraduate studies at selected UK universities, Felix Scholarships cover tuition fees and provide a stipend for living expenses. They are awarded to academically outstanding students with limited financial resources.

Here are the details

5. Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarships
These scholarships support Indian professionals in the arts, heritage conservation, and humanities for short-term study and research in the UK. They typically cover travel costs, accommodation, and a living allowance.

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Here are the details

6. Rhodes Scholarships
One of the most prestigious scholarships, Rhodes Scholarships are awarded to exceptional students from various countries, including India, to study at the University of Oxford. They cover tuition fees, a living allowance, and other expenses.

Here are the details

7. Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation Scholarships
These scholarships are available to Indian students pursuing postgraduate studies in the UK in fields such as fine arts, design, architecture, theatre, and music. They typically cover tuition fees and provide a stipend for living expenses.

Here are the details

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Livingstone Partners buys Dutch M&A firm Florin Finance

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Livingstone Partners buys Dutch M&A firm Florin Finance

Global M&A and debt advisory firm Livingstone Partners has bolstered its presence in the Dutch market with the acquisition of local boutique Florin Finance.

US-headquartered Livingstone Partners is an M&A and debt advisory firm dedicated to the middle-market. The firm has over 120 staff working from 11 offices worldwide, including two in the US, seven in Europe, and two in Asia.

With the acquisition of Florin Finance, Livingstone Partners doubles its team in Amsterdam to around 20 staff. The local Dutch office was launched in three years ago.

“This move reinforces our position as the premier independent M&A firm for middle-market transactions in the Netherlands,” said Ralph Hagelgans, Managing Partner at Livingstone. “The arrival of the Florin Finance team also positions Livingstone Partners for further growth in the Benelux in the coming years, creating ample opportunities for both clients and professionals.”

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Florin Finance was founded in 2013. The boutique has over the years closed dozens of transactions across sectors such as agriculture, professional services, industry, technology, telecom, and retail, among others. The firm has bagged several awards for its work, including being named a leading M&A consultancy in the Dutch market in 2023.

“Florin Finance is renowned for its high-quality, hands-on M&A services. Our shared culture of excellence in dealmaking will enable us to make a significant impact in the Benelux market,” said Niels Claeren, Partner at Livingstone Partners.

The deal will see nine staff transfer, with partners Remco Goes and Niels Roks now becoming partners at Livingstone Partners, lifting its partnership to six. Istvan Csejtei and Joris van de Kerkhof both joined from PwC last year, following in the footsteps of Niels Claeren and Mark Pel who previously made the same switch.

The Amsterdam team of Livingstone Partners works for entrepreneurs, private equity firms, and corporates, with a focus on six segments: business services, consumer goods, healthcare, industrial, and media, and technology.

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