The Grand Prize of $1,000 and a free, one-year subscription to Equifax Complete ™ Family Plan goes to Debbie Ritenour, whose entry received 648 votes.
First Prize—$500 and a free, one-year subscription to Equifax Complete ™ Family Plan—goes to Abraham Liandro, whose entry received 274 votes. Second Prize—$100 and a free one-year subscription to Equifax Complete ™ Family Plan—goes to Eric McWhinnie who received 103 votes.
Scroll down to see the winning entries and find out what financial wellness looks like to our winners.
No matter what stage of life you’re in, managing your personal finances can be a challenge. Whether you’re striking out on your own for the first time, starting a family, or winding down a long career, there are a few key things you should always keep in mind that will help you keep your personal finances under control.
1. Make a budget. You’ve heard it a million times, but making a budget truly is a huge step toward financial wellness. Track your spending to get a sense of where your money is going, then break your spending into categories such as utilities, groceries, and mortgage or rent payments. If you’re overspending, go through your budget line by line to see what you can cut.
If that’s too detailed, try the 80/20 rule. Deposit 80 percent of your income into a checking account and 20 percent into a savings or investment account. Use the money in your checking for expenses and leave the money in your savings alone.
2. Understand your credit score. Your credit score is calculated using the information in your credit report, which your creditors report to the three national credit reporting agencies (CRAs). Positive activity—such as a long history of on-time payments—can mean a higher credit score, while negative activity—such as accounts in collections—can mean a lower score. Once you understand how your actions impact your credit score, you can change your behavior to improve your creditworthiness.
Lenders use your credit score, among other factors, to gauge your risk as a borrower, with a higher credit score indicating lower risk. If you have a lower credit score, your applications for credit could be denied, or you could pay more for credit in the form of higher interest rates. Those high interest payments could quickly derail your financial life.
3. Set clear financial goals. Whether you want to save money for a vacation, pay down debt, or add to your retirement savings, it’s important to set SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-related—goals. For example, if you want to add more money to your savings account, specify the amount you’d like to add within the next six months, making sure it’s within your budget to do so. In six months, assess your progress and adjust your goals accordingly. If you’ve attained your goal, consider setting a new one, and if you haven’t, make adjustments to ensure you’re setting reasonable goals.
4. Figure out what financial wellness means to you. Once you stop comparing yourself to other people, it will be easier to focus on your own financial health. Determine your own priorities instead of focusing on what your neighbors have, and use those priorities as your barometer for success. You’ll feel better about yourself and your financial situation and, as an added bonus, you’ll avoid the debt that comes with “keeping up with the Joneses.”