Managing your finances in 2021: Time to hold onto your cash
The holidays are now over and it's time to turn our attention to managing money. But it will be different after 2020.
Paul Oster, president of credit management firm Better Qualified in Eatontown, said normally he would first tell people to pay down credit card debts. The worst debt to be carrying right now is revolving credit card debt because the average interest rate is 17% or higher.
Take a look a subscription like Netflix and Spotify. Those add up. Oster said the best way to look at your financial situation is to run your household like a business and the people who are living in it are the employees.
Look at a profit and loss statement. What's the budget? How much income is coming in and what are expenses? What are our past expenses and what are the projected expenses for 2021? There are all important questions a family should be asking themselves, said Oster.
This is where a person's credit score is going to either cost or save you money. Oster said in New Jersey, if you look at insurance premiums, if you have the same exact coverage with all other things equal, then someone with excellent credit will be paying about half of what you will be paying for the same insurance.
Get a copy of a credit report and start to do things to build your credit, said Oster. Get credit builder loans, secured credit cards and become an authorized user on a family members credit card. This is not a piggy backing situation, said Oster. You don't want to purchase someone else's credit history but it's more than OK to become an authorized user on someone's account.
Secured credit cards and credit builder loans will help a person build credit moving forward and that's something people in New Jersey need to focus on because everything else like the cost of living is so high.
But in a world of COVID-19, Oster has reversed course. He said rather than pay down credit card debts, hold onto your cash. If you took the $600 stimulus check and applied it to your credit card, it's possible the card will either be closed down anyway or credit limits will be lowered. Oster said hold onto the cash: You don't know when you're going to need it.
"If you have any money, balances left on lines of credit, take it out. Take it out now and put it in a cash fund so you have access to it. It's not your money until you actually withdraw it. So if you have a line of credit, access to cash, now is the time to pull it out," said Oster.
If you have decent credit, mortgage interest rates are at ridiculously low, less than 3% to borrow money. He said to refinance now and pay down any other expenses that are over 3%.