Making a budget? Struggling to save money? You’re not alone. That’s why, in a new LinkedIn blog post, Shark Tank co-host Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful) is sharing five financial tips for the new year:
1. Pay Your Debts
Nobody will be surprised that this is at the top of my recommended resolutions. It’s common sense—everybody knows that debt is the enemy, right? You’d think so, yet every single day my inbox is flooded with dozens of people asking me questions like “should I use my Christmas bonus to pay my credit card bill or should I use it to buy x, y, z?”.
My answer is always the same! As long as you have debt, you should be using every penny of your paycheck to repay it (after your other bills and necessities are accounted for of course). You can’t find financial freedom when you owe somebody else money, it’s simple.
2. Calculate Your 90-Day Number
Your 90-day number is the total you’re left with after adding up all of your incoming cash over a three-month period and subtracting all expenditures over the same time frame. This tip is almost as important as paying your debts. You wouldn’t believe how many people are completely oblivious to their own financial situation!
After calculating your 90-day number you’ll get one of two answers, you’re both making money and slowly building wealth or you’re going further into debt and losing money. If you find yourself with a negative number you absolutely have to change your lifestyle then and there. There is no way on earth you can sustain losing money every 90 days.
3. Eliminate an Expense
I challenge you to eliminate at least one expense in 2017. Replace your expensive biweekly manicure appointment with an affordable nail kit so you can take care of your cuticles at home. Cancel the gym membership you use once a month and start jogging outside—for free. Pack your lunch and give up the $12 salads you buy every day.
I don’t care if it’s as small of a change as brewing coffee at home instead of buying a dark roast every morning. Pick an expense, ditch it entirely or replace it with a more cost-conscious habit, and put aside all the money you would’ve been spending somewhere you won’t touch it. I guarantee that you’ll be shocked and thrilled when you calculate how much money you’ve saved. A $3 coffee doesn’t seem like much, but if you’re buying one every day that’s over $1000 a year!
4. Start Investing
Once you’ve dealt with your debt and unpaid bills, it’s time to put your money to work! I like to think of every dollar in my name as a soldier that I send into battle every day to bring me back even more dollars. I call it my cash flow army! I keep my army growing by investing every dollar I can in high-quality, low volatility, and most importantly—dividend paying—stocks, bonds, ETFs, and venture deals.
After I invest, I follow my mother Georgette’s financial rule of thumb…ONLY SPEND THE INTEREST, NEVER THE PRINCIPLE!
5. Improve Your Money Karma
One thing I’ve learned through my life is that nobody gets away with anything, including in the financial world. If you didn’t work like a dog in your 20s and you blew your money in your 30s and 40s, you’re going to have to scrimp like crazy in your 50s and keep working well into your 60s. That’s Money Karma in action: reward or punishment, depending on your previous financial actions.
Good Money Karma works like this: if you had a good financial plan and instituted it, you probably have enough cash. Now it’s time to give back.
I personally like to set aside at least 5 percent of my after-tax income, funneling it to a few select charities that mean something to my wife, Linda, and I. We call our charitable donations “five in five.” We select five charities or causes for five years and support those, rather than spreading our focus too widely. After five years pass, we assess and choose five more.
The method doesn’t matter; the point is that good Money Karma goes beyond any tax break you’ll receive. There are health benefits to giving. Countless academic studies have come to the same conclusion: altruistic people live longer, healthier and happier lives. Therefore, they’re less of a financial burden on their families and on society. You give, you get.