The you're-lazy financial planner

Follow our experts' painless advice, and by the end of the month you'll be...well, not fabulously wealthy, but solvent enough to stop eating ramen for every meal.


YOUR FINANCIAL DREAM TEAM

David Bach
Author, The Automatic Millionaire; The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner; Start Late, Finish Rich—you get the idea

Alan Corey
Author, A Million Bucks by 30; real-estate investor, entrepreneur

Cheryl Costa
NAPFA-registered financial adviser and principal adviser, Family Financial Architects, Inc.

Ken Diehl
NAPFA-registered financial adviser and president, Cornerstone Financial Planning, Inc.



Day 1
Stop feeling guilty
Don’t worry if you’re not tracking every penny you spend, like your grandma did in her checkbook. “In today’s world, we don’t carry cash. It’s virtually impossible to budget the old-fashioned way,” says Bach.


Day 2
Check your credit report
Get it over with. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the tracking companies are required to provide you with a copy of your credit report, for free, once per year. To order, visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228. Good credit: 700 or higher. Bad: 600 or below.




Day 3
GO ONLINE
Bach advises you get online access to your banking, investments and retirement accounts. Automate your bill payments online, too—this way, you’ll never pay another late fee.


Day 4
Keep it together
Try to keep all of your money in one bank, and your investments in one brokerage firm. “Banks and brokerage firms rate their clients,” Bach says. “So the more you have in one place, the better you’re treated.”


Day 5
Pay yourself first
Before we go on with more basics, we gotta talk retirement. Bach recommends an interesting way to think about investing: Calculate what you earn an hour, and contribute one hour’s worth of pay every day to your 401k. (For the flip side, see “401ks are for suckers,”)


Day 6
See if your employer offers a Roth 401k
It’s the traditional 401k mixed with a Roth IRA. Your money grows tax-free and you can pull it out tax-free when you retire, but you don’t get a tax deduction.


Self-employed? Check out a solo 401k plan. We like Fidelity (personal.fidelity.com).




Day 7
Move your 401k funds into target-dated mutual funds
In a mutual fund, a fund manager takes a pool of money (including yours) and buys stocks and bonds. A target-dated mutual fund makes risky investments when you’re young. Examples? Vanguard and T. Rowe Price.


Day 8
Check your asset-allocation
How is your 401k money invested? You should have a mix of stocks, bonds and equities. Diehl recommends a mix of 60% equities—stocks, stock mutual funds—and 40% a fixed-income combo of bonds and money market accounts, e.g., things with fixed interest.


Day 9
Track your SPENDING
Okay, enough about 401ks. How much do you take out at ATMs or charge to your card? Find out with the 30-day free trial at Automatic Money Manager (automaticmoneymanager.com). Affiliated with thousands of banks, it will track on a dashboard every electronic transaction.




Day 10
Determine your latte factor
Coffee, cigarettes, martinis, bottled water—if you spend $10 a day on things like this, that’s $300 a month and $3,600 a year! Visit Finish Rich’s website (finishrich.com) to calculate your latte factor.


Day 11
Identify and reduce monthly expenses
Take stock of your macro costs: food, rent, utilities, etc. Do you need the premium channels? Do you have to take a cab home from work three times a week? Try to eliminate one—just one—monthly luxury this month.


Day 12
talk ’em down!
Revolving expenses are month-to-month fees: dating websites, gym memberships. These are negotiable, Corey says. Threaten that you want to quit or will switch to a competitor. You’ll usually be transferred to the retaining department, where they may lower your payment.




Day 13
google “online coupon”
This tip is duh-obvious, but it took Corey to point it out: Hundreds of stores offer $5, $10 or $20 off items bought online if you’re smart enough to search. Type it in and see what comes up.


Day 14
Mortgage holders: This one’s for you
Switch to a biweekly payment option for your mortgage, rather than paying once per month. Pay half every two weeks and you’ll save so much on interest that you’ll pay off your 30-year mortgage in 23 years! (Along with some fees.)




Day 15
Consolidate your credit cards
Go to CreditCards.com and apply for a new one that will have a 0% interest rate for six months to a year on balance transfers. Transfer your high-balance cards to the 0% interest card. But: Do not cancel the old credit cards. Hide them. Your credit will look better.

NEXT: DAY 15 - 31


YOUR FINANCIAL DREAM TEAM

David Bach
Author, The Automatic Millionaire; The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner; Start Late, Finish Rich—you get the idea

Alan Corey
Author, A Million Bucks by 30; real-estate investor, entrepreneur

Cheryl Costa
NAPFA-registered financial adviser and principal adviser, Family Financial Architects, Inc.

Ken Diehl
NAPFA-registered financial adviser and president, Cornerstone Financial Planning, Inc.



Day 16
Pay minimums on student loans, MAX on credit cards
Just pay the minimum on your government-issued student loans. “Interest rates are so low—less than 5 percent,” Bach says. Even if you have a private one, chances are the rates are still lower than on your credit cards.


Day 17
AVOID the universal default clause
Credit card companies “can troll the Internet to see if you’re late on other payments, so they can raise the interest rate on your card—even if you weren’t late paying them,” Bach says. Call your company to make sure they don’t do this.


Day 18
open your junk mail
Use new credit card offers to negotiate lower interest rates or better terms with your current one. Call the customer-service line on the back of the card and actually read them the offer, Bach says. Chances are, they’ll help you out in order to keep your business.




Day 19
Never take on anything that eats!
This means babies, pets, loafing boyfriends, etc. Food is expensive. So hike down to the bodega and buy yourself a box of condoms. And wait on that dog until you pay off the Visa.


Day 20
Create a paper trail
If you’re falling behind on payments, reach out to your creditors and service providers and create a paper trail that proves you’ve tried to work with them on a payment plan, Bach says. “God forbid you go bankrupt—you’ll have to prove that you tried to work with your lenders,” he says.




Day 21
invest green
If you want to jump on a bandwagon, choose wisely—“green investing is the next wave,” says Bach. Some funds pay upwards of 20%–30%—see winslowgreen.com.


Day 22
Make bank FRIENDS
Banks do it all: home loans, personal financial plan. “They’re there to work with you,” Bach says. Go to your bank and introduce yourself to the manager, Bach urges. “Ask them to preapprove you for a home loan. If you’re a renter, they can find out how long it would take you to qualify.”


Day 23
CONSIDER an online savings account
Online savings accounts are paying interest at 3.5%, 4%, 4.5%—great rates. The ING Orange (ingdirect.com) account is a great example. And some even give cash rewards. Most banks also have online savings accounts that pay—HSBC is paying 4.25%.


Day 24-25
save on transport
If you own a car, review your auto-insurance policies. According to Costa, raising your deductible to $1,000 can save hundreds in annual premiums “because the likelihood is that you will file fewer claims,” Costa says. (And Bach swears by Geico, BTW.) If you take the train, sign up for TransitChek, a program that deducts transportation costs from your pretax earnings. If your company doesn’t participate, give them a nudge (transitcenter.com/employees).


Day 26
Consolidate your insurance
Shop your insurance rates around. If you’ve got auto with one and homeowner’s with another, you can often get good rates if you bundle them together, Diehl says. At firms like Allstate and State Farm, you can pretty much get everything—including a single bill.




Day 27
Have an emergency fund
What if you lose your job or your boiler craps out? This account should be large enough to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses, says Costa. A perfect place to stash this money is in an online savings account, like ING. Start small—put in 20 bucks a week.


Day 28
Use your employer’s flexible spending account
This allows you to put money aside for health- and child-care expenses—pretax. Survey the coming year: “Going to the dentist? Need contacts? Laser eye surgery?” Costa asks. Be warned: If you don’t use this money, you can lose it.


Day 29
Prepare for your own death
Get a will in place—you’ll need a lawyer. Check with your employer to see if the beneficiary on your life-insurance policy is still appropriate—is it your spouse or is it still your dad?


Day 30
Get a financial book and really read it
Corey is all about self-education. “No one will care about my money more than I do,” he says. So he taught himself how to invest without a brokerage. He checks out sites like the Motley Fool (fool.com) to see “where my money should be.”




Day 31
You’re finally ready to start building toward those millions. Now buy us a drink, you cheap bastard.



Bonus tips

Pay with exact change
And when you don't, save it for a rainy day. Corey carried around an old-man change purse, kept his change and actually USED it. "Think of all those dollars you'll save breaking." 

Try your hand at being a slumlord
Troll Craigslist and find a good apartment—then take the lease yourself. Rent out the rooms for more than an equal share, and you reduce your own rent. Corey does the same thing in the apartment building he owns—and actually makes a profit on the property, while living there, by renting out the other bedrooms.