(ARA) – The new year is a time for celebration, but it’s also time for planning. For many Americans, that means reviewing your budget for the next year and setting some financial goals. As with any other goals, the key to achieving your financial goals is laying out a process that will ultimately lead you to success.
If you’ve set yearly financial goals in the past, but have failed to achieve them, now is a great time to re-evaluate your process. And don’t let past failures discourage you, because you are not alone – only 12 percent of consumers reached their financial goals in 2011, according to a recent Zogby IBOPE survey commissioned by TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting companies.
“Even though you may have been busy with the holidays, now is the perfect time to appraise your current financial situation and make goals for where you want to be at the end of 2012,” says Heather Battison, TransUnion’s senior director responsible for consumer education.
So what can you do to ensure financial success in the coming year? TransUnion offers five tips for planning and achieving your goals:
* Check your credit reports every three months. Monitoring your credit can help you recognize bad financial habits, like making late payments, which can affect credit score. Regularly checking your credit report is also a way to protect yourself against identity theft. If you ever run into a situation where you suspect identity theft, TransUnion provides a guide for what to do next.
Federal regulations allow everyone to receive one free credit report per year from each of the three main credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
* Check for accuracy. Make sure the information on your credit reports is up-to-date and reflects your current credit history. Give yourself at least 30 days to resolve any issues. Online dispute forms are available at TransUnion.com.
* Know your score. Your credit score helps determine your interest rates on credit purchases. A healthier credit score can help you receive the best interest rate, ultimately putting more money in your pocket as your work toward achieving your financial goals.
* Create a monthly spending plan and stick to it. Breaking down your spending habits into smaller and more manageable increments can help you achieve your financial goals. Through breaking it down by month, you can also set aside a fixed amount each month to deal with unexpected financial emergencies that may come up later in the year. If you don’t have to spend this reserve fund, you can treat it as a year-end bonus, or, even better – put it toward next year’s goals.
* Take additional measures to minimize your exposure to identity theft. In addition to frequently checking your credit, you can sign up for a credit monitoring service that will alert you whenever something changes in your report.
Setting yourself up for a successful financial year means developing plans now that you can execute as the year goes on. Additional planning tools to help you understand your credit information, manage your debt load, protect your identity and help you achieve your financial goals can be found TransUnion.com.