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14 Smart Money Moves To Make In 2021

By: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.

Are you looking to make some smart money moves to improve your future?

The new year is a great time to start thinking about what you can do to improve your financial situation. You can use this time to look forward and start making smart money moves that will help you in the future.

For example, maybe you want to become better prepared for emergencies in 2021 – probably on a lot of people’s minds after the year we had in 2020. There are several easy money moves you can take if being prepared is your goal.

You could put together an emergency binder that organizes your finances, contacts, personal information, etc. It’s everything someone would need if they had to take over your finances.

There are also smart money moves like finding affordable life insurance and creating an emergency fund that can help you be better prepared in 2021.

If lowering your bills is one of your goals for 2021, you may want to refinance your student loans, or make one of the easiest money moves and find a less expensive alternative to cable.

There are so many smart money moves you can make in 2021. Some are small and some are bigger, like taking advantage of your company’s 401(k) match, but all of them will help you improve your financial future.

The tasks on this list will help you to gather important documents, obtain free money (hello, company match!), find life insurance, save thousands of dollars a year, and more.

Of course, not everything on this list will apply to each of you, but this list is a good starting point. If anything, these smart money moves will get you motivated to start taking control over your finances in 2021.

Here are 14 smart money moves to make in 2021.

1. Take your company’s 401(k) match

Does your employer offer a company match?

If so, I hope you are taking it!

A company or employer match is when your employer contributes to your 401(k). And, a 401(k) is a type of retirement account that you get through an employer.

Because this is basically free money that will help you grow your retirement savings, this is one of the best money moves right now. I highly recommend taking advantage of your company’s match if you can!

It allows you to invest a portion of your paycheck before taxes are taken out, and the amount in your 401(k) can grow tax free until you withdraw. Once you reach retirement and take money out of your 401(k), the amount you withdraw from this account is taxed.

Your 401(k) is an account that holds investments, similar to how your bank account holds your money. You may choose to place investments such as stocks, mutual funds, and more in your 401(k).

Each company offers its own kind of match. For example, an employer may match 100% of your contribution, up to 5% of your salary.

If you have this option with your job, I highly, highly recommend this as one of the smart money moves you make this year. Look into this further AS SOON AS YOU CAN!

2. Create an emergency binder

An emergency binder is a way to store financial information, like bank account numbers and passwords. You can store insurance information, personal details about you and each member of your family, information about bills, and more.

Having an emergency binder is so very important.

I know there are many, many families who would be very lost if something were to happen to the person who usually manages their financial situation.

Accounts could get lost, passwords would be unknown, bills may be forgotten about, life insurance may be hard to find, and more.

It’s best to keep a family emergency binder of everything just in case something were to happen, even if it’s something no one ever wants to think about. Having one just makes life so much easier, and it’s one of the smart money moves you should make this year.

I recommend having an emergency binder if:

  • You have a family

  • You have children

  • You are single – this is because someone will have to handle your affairs if something were to happen to you, and they’ll most likely have no clue as to where to start. The binder can guide them.

An emergency binder can help pretty much everyone and anyone.

This can be useful in non-emergencies as well. Creating a binder like this organizes all your family’s information in one place. It makes finding any piece of information quick and easy, and you’ll probably refer to it often.

3. Sign up for a complimentary $10,000 accidental death insurance policy

My friends at Harmonic have partnered with Making Sense of Cents, and they would like to give you a $10,000 accidental death insurance policy to encourage you to build your own personal safety net.

This company is simply looking to introduce more people to Harmonic, which is why they are giving away a complimentary policy. I share lots of free things on Making Sense of Cents – this is simply another item that I’ve negotiated for my readers. You have to be a U.S. citizen, though, to sign up.

You can click here to sign up to claim your policy today! It takes less than 5 minutes.

This policy is slightly different in that it covers you in case you die in an accident – such as a car crash. Accidents are the number one cause of death for people ages 1-44, according to the folks in our government that track that sort of data.

Since this $10,000 accidental death insurance policy is at no cost to you, I recommend that everyone sign up for it. Whether you are single, have a family, have a dog, etc., it’s a no-brainer because this won’t cost you anything.

4. Find life insurance

Since we are talking about insurance, looking at life insurance is another one of the smart money moves you should take this year.

Surprisingly, life insurance is much more affordable than you’d probably think.

I did a quick search through PolicyGenius, and I was able to find a $1,000,000 policy for 20 years, for less than $27 per month.

Life insurance is money for your family if you were to pass away. And, if you are the sole or primary earner in your family, then there are probably a lot of people who rely on you financially. Life insurance is money that can be used to pay for funeral expenses, day-to-day bills, pay off debt, etc.

If you are looking for life insurance, I highly recommend looking into PolicyGenius.

PolicyGenius makes getting life insurance easy. A quote takes just 5 minutes and you can see comparable policies so that you can determine what is best for you.

5. Shop around for more affordable car insurance

Shopping around for car insurance is something that most people do not do, and it can cost you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

By simply comparing insurance rates, you can save over $1,000 yearly.

You’d be surprised by how many people NEVER compare insurance rates, and how much money it can cost you.

In fact, a family member of mine has been paying around $2,200 a year for quite some time, and when I found out, I was absolutely shocked!

I easily helped them find car insurance with better coverage for just $600 a year. Yes, they were able to save around $1,600 in literally less than 30 minutes.

You can shop car insurance rates through Get Jerry here.

This company will allow you to get quotes from up to 45 insurance companies, and switching is super easy – you simply click a button and save money.

This is one of the quick money moves that can help you save money each month for years to come!

6. Have a money meeting

A new year is a great time to have your next (or first!) money meeting.

In your money meeting you may want to discuss things like:

  • Completing an annual financial checkup

  • Looking over your debt amounts

  • Checking your expenses

  • Discussing your financial goals

  • Thinking about what changes need to be made

  • What the family’s budget is

  • How much is needed for retirement, and where you are on that track

  • Any financial problems, and so on

There is no exact outline of what you should talk about in your money meetings because every financial situation is different.

Money meetings help you get comfortable talking about your finances, and they make it easier to set goals and work towards them with your partner. I know talking about money can feel uncomfortable at first, but starting to have regular money meetings is one of the smart money moves every couple should take in the new year.

7. Start an emergency fund

An emergency fund is money that you have saved for when something unexpected happens, and I think 2020 showed many people why creating an emergency fund is one of the best money moves right now.

Your emergency fund can be used for something such as paying your bills if you lose your job (or if your hours or pay are cut), paying for a car repair, a medical bill, or something like a surprise leaking roof.

8. Learn how to invest

Investing is important so you can:

  • Retire one day

  • Prepare for unexpected events in the future

  • Allow your money to grow over time

If you want to learn how to live your best life in the future, investing is a great way to do so. And, you can even start investing with little money.

Investing is a smart money move because it means you are making your money work for you. If you weren’t investing, your money would just be sitting there and not earning a thing.

This is important to note because $100 today will not be worth $100 in the future if you just let it sit under a mattress or in a checking account. However, if you invest, you can actually turn your $100 into something more. Investing for the long term means your money is working for you, potentially earning you an income.

For example: If you put $1,000 into a retirement account that has an annual 8% return, 40 years later that would turn into $21,724. If you started with that same $1,000 and put an extra $1,000 in it for the next 40 years at an annual 8% return, that would then turn into $301,505. If you started with $10,000 and put an extra $10,000 in it for the next 40 years at that same percentage rate, that would then turn into $3,015,055.

9. Increase your credit score

Do you know what your credit score is? Do you know how it can impact your life?

While I don’t think that you need to go crazy and obsess over your credit score, improving your credit score is not something that will hurt you.

Your credit score can impact the interest rate you receive on a loan or a mortgage, finding a rental home, attaining certain jobs, your insurance rates, even your cell phone bill, and more.

A credit score is a three digit number that shows others your creditworthiness, and is often used as an indicator to show how risky you are. A good credit score is usually over 720.

You can check your credit score with Credit Sesame for free.

If this is one of the smart money moves you want to make in 2021, here are some of the actions you can take to increase your credit score:

Pay your bills on time

Regularly check your credit report

Keep your balances and utilization rate low

10. Get your free credit report

One easy money move that I recommend this year is to start getting your free credit report.

You can receive one annual free credit report from the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).

Yes, this means that you get one from EACH, so three each year. I recommend spacing them out so you can get one every four months.

11. Find an alternative to your expensive TV bill

Over five years ago, we decided to get rid of cable.

And, we haven’t missed it one bit.

I know of many people who spend $100 each month on cable TV, many spend over $150 a month, and I even had someone tell me that they spend over $300 each month on cable.

If you’re trying to find ways to cut your budget, and you have an expensive TV bill, I definitely recommend finding an alternative. This is one of my favorite smart money moves in 2021 because there are more options than ever. There’s no reason to spend that much on cable ever again.

12. Track your money

Tracking your money is important when it comes to managing your money.

Luckily, there is a free, easy tool that allows you to do this.

Personal Capital is a free personal finance software that allows users to better manage their finances.

You can connect accounts, such as your mortgage, bank, credit cards, investment portfolio, retirement, and more, and it is all free.

You can track your cash flow, your spending, how much you’re saving, how your investments are doing, and more.

With their free financial platform, you can easily see all of your accounts in one place so that you can manage everything efficiently.

If tracking your money is one of the smart money moves you want to make in 2021, Personal Capital can help you reach your goal.

13. Refinance your student loans

Do you have student loans?

If so, then you may want to think about refinancing them. This is one of the smart money moves that can help you lower your monthly bills and possibly save money over time.

Student loan refinancing is when you apply for a new loan that is then used to pay off your other student loans.

This is usually a great option if you borrowed private student loans and your credit score is better now than when you originally took out your student loans.

By refinancing your student loans, you may qualify for better repayment terms, a lower interest rate, and more. This is great because it may help you pay off your student loans quicker.

The positives of refinancing student loans include:

  • One monthly payment to simplify your finances

  • Lower monthly payments

  • Lower interest rates, and more

Companies, such as Credible, help you to refinance your student loans. With refinancing, the average person can save thousands of dollars on their loan, and that’s incredible! You can save a lot of money with student loan refinancing, such as with Credible, especially if you have high interest federal or private loans.

Credible’s platform is similar to the way Expedia works for finding flights – with Credible, you simply search the available rates to find the best student loan rate for you. There is no service fee, no origination fee, and no prepayment penalty if you end up paying off your student loans faster.

To use Credible, it takes less than 10 minutes and just follow these steps:

  1. Fill out a quick simple form (2 mins) – It only takes one form to see the many different lender options.

  2. Choose an option you like (2 mins) – On Credible, you can easily compare the different lenders all in one place.

  3. Provide your loan details (3 mins) – After providing more information about yourself, it takes one business day to receive your finalized offer.

Before refinancing a federal student loan, though, you will want to think about different federal benefits that you may be giving up. You may give up income-based repayment plans, loan forgiveness for those who have certain public service jobs (including jobs at public schools, the military, Peace Corps, and more). By refinancing your federal student loans, you may be giving up any future options for these loan forgiveness programs.

However, keep in mind that by refinancing your student loans, you may receive lower monthly payments, lower interest rates, and more. This may help you pay off your debt much faster. For me, I didn’t qualify for any loan forgiveness, so refinancing would have definitely helped me if I knew about it back then.

14. Get a travel rewards credit card

Do you earn rewards with your credit card?

Using a travel rewards credit card means that you can gain points that you can use to get free or cheap travel. You can earn airline tickets, gift cards, hotel stays, cash, etc., all for simply using your credit card.

If you are going to pay for something anyway, then you might as well get something for free out of it, right?

If you travel a lot and/or already use credit cards, then signing up for the ones with the best rewards can help you earn free travel.

However, this is only a smart move money if you are able to use credit cards responsibly. Taking on debt to earn travel rewards isn’t a smart move!

Two cards I recommend include:

  • Chase Freedom Flex

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred

What should I do with my money in 2021?

It’s entirely up to you! Start by thinking about what your goals are for this year and your future.

Do you want to pay off debt? Start investing more? Reduce your monthly bills?

Those are all smart money moves to make, and the ideas on this list can help you work towards any of them.

Remember, what you decide to do with your money in 2021 is personal. You may want to make steps towards quitting a job you don’t love, plan a vacation, donate more to your favorite charity, and so on.

It’s never a bad idea to focus on paying down your debt and finding ways to save money, but from there, think about what you want for your future.

What is the smartest thing to do with your money?

I believe that paying off your high interest rate debt is one of the most important smart money moves. Debt makes it hard to save or invest for your future, and the average person holds a lot of debt.

Having debt can keep you in a debt cycle that is hard to break free from, but you can learn how to become debt free and finally start focusing on your future.


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