Build and Protect Your Financial Future
Debt: Know exactly who you owe, how much you owe each creditor, and the interest rate on each account. Develop a plan to pay down your debt using a popular method that I call the Credit Crunch Method, described at the end of Get Out of Debt.
Budget: You've heard the expression: "You can't get there from here," right? Well, whoever coined the phrase might very well have been talking about budgets. When it comes to meeting your financial goals, without a budget "you can't get there from here." A budget doesn't have to be financial handcuffs or a money diet. For a more positive outlook on budgeting and all the advice you need to succeed at it, see Budgeting 101.
Health insurance: It's common to feel invincible when you're young. Many young singles take a huge financial risk by going without health insurance because they believe their youth and good health makes insurance unnecessary. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a single. You CAN become ill, regardless of your age. You could be in a car accident, hurt yourself skiing, tear a muscle lifting weights, fall on the ice, get mono or pneumonia, or incur any number of illnesses or injuries that would land you in the hospital and rack up large medical bills that may take you decades to pay off.
Don't be short-sighted. If you can't afford a good plan with a low deductible, at least protect yourself from catastrophic financial losses by purchasing a less expensive plan with a high deductible. You'll pay the small expenses yourself, but the large ones that could ruin your financial future will be covered by insurance.
COBRA: If you're covered under your employer's group health insurance plan and you're about to change jobs, check into COBRA coverage, which allows you to continue your coverage under the plan until you're covered under your new employer's plan, for up to 18 months after termination of employment. The cost to you is whatever your employer pays, plus a small administrative fee.
Disability insurance: Because you don't have a second family income, it's very important that you protect your income-generating power by buying long-term disability insurance, and if possible, short-term disability insurance. Disability insurance will pay a percentage of your income (usually 60%) if you're unable to work due to illness or accident. Again, don't let your feelings of invincibility prevent you from protecting yourself. These coverages are much more important to you than life insurance unless you have dependents. Many employers offer short- and long-term disability insurance free or at a substantial savings. Check with your Human Resources department.
Retirement Planning: If you're young, don't let your age fool you into thinking it's too early to save for retirement. The sooner you start saving, the less you'll need to save overall, due to the power of compounding, deferred taxes, and your employer's 401(k) match if you're lucky enough to have such a plan. Don't walk away from the free gift your employer offers via the 401(k) match. If you're not eligible for an employer's plan, set up an IRA. Avoid a big mistake many singles make: don't cash out your 401(k) account when you change jobs. Roll it over into an IRA or another employer plan instead. The cash is tempting, but spending your retirement money is short-sighted.
Medi-gap and Long-term Care Insurance: Singles over 65 should purchase a Medi-gap policy to cover medical expenses not covered by Medicare. Singles over 50 may want to consider a long-term care insurance policy, which covers the expenses of a nursing home or home health care if needed.
Your Home: If you're suddenly single due to divorce or death of a spouse, it may be necessary or prudent for you to move to a smaller home so you have a smaller mortgage. This will make it easier to make ends meet and may be the only way you'll be able to save towards retirement.
Wills: Wills are another item that many singles think are unnecessary. They're wrong. If you own anything of value (car, jewelry, house or condo, computer, savings account, etc.), you should have a will specifying who will get your belongings if you die. If you have children, a will is an absolute must, because it's the method for designating a guardian for them.
Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney: If you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself, a living will and power of attorney will designate someone you trust to make those decisions for you or carry out the wishes you've indicated. See a lawyer or financial planner to draft these documents.