I'm not the type to make New Year's resolutions. But if it takes rolling over a new year to set some new goals, then I'm all for it. I've been in the beauty business for a long time and have learned many lessons by making my own mistakes with money, and I've learned other lessons watching friends make mistakes of their own.
Generally, most of us start out young in this business, and make quick, decent money. If we're very lucky, we might have considerable disposable income. But if you're like me, you're too busy making money to manage it. My advice: Hire a reputable money manager to do it for you, preferably someone who isn't affiliated with an investment corporation. It is the smartest expense I have. A great independent company I recommend is www.chelseafinancialservices.com.
But in the meantime, I wanted to share some other things I've learned that may help you better manage your money. Here are my top 10 tips for a healthy financial life.
1. Run a comprehensive report of all three credit bureaus (www.experian.com, www.equifax.com and www.transunion.com) at least annually to stay informed about your financial health and monitor any possible fraud. Here you'll find information with tips on what to do to raise your FICO score, which banks reference when you apply for credit or loans.
2. Face your debt. Work to negotiate interest rates and payment plans to settle debts (new and old) and clean up your credit. But remember: If you pay off a credit card, never close it. This raises your debt ratio, which will lower your FICO score.
3. Pay yourself first. Try setting up two higher yielding accounts at an online bank, like ING Direct, and automatically transfer 20 percent of all income into one account for tax purposes; into the other account, transfer any amount you can afford as savings.
4. Set up auto debit for all bills from your bank account or credit card to avoid late fees and interest penalties. Many of us don't find the time or discipline to pay our bills on time.
5. Get something back for the money you spend: Take out a credit card that earns you frequent flyer miles for every dollar you spend.
6. Use these frequent flyer miles for trips to further your education; check out the offerings at www.rarenyc.com, or trade shows such as IBS (www.ibsnewyork.com). Of course, you can also use them for that well-deserved vacation.
7. Nothing is more important than having a will, a living will and financial power of attorney in place. You must do this, whether or not you have children, and whether you have $100 or millions in the bank. There are several do-it-yourself computer programs on the market that will save you truckloads of money on attorney's fees.
8. If you lease a car and rent your home, understand that no matter how much cash or savings you have, you must establish a healthy credit history in order for a bank to lend you money. So buy something to establish credit, and be sure to make regular, timely payments.
9. If you have money in savings but have credit card debt, use your savings to pay off your debt. The interest rate on your debt is certainly higher than the interest you are earning on your savings, which means that the money you think you are saving is actually costing you money.
10. Remember, money is important, but don't let it rule your world.
My best wishes to all of you for health, wealth and happiness in 2006!