Being money smart is about more than having a budget and eliminating dumb purchases. It means creating a financial foundation that will carry your family comfortably through whatever life throws your way.
To create that foundation and find lasting financial security, you need these 10 products:
1. Checking account
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Let’s start with the basics. You need a centralized place for your money so you can manage and monitor it.
Prepaid debit cards are an option, but they can come saddled with fees. Plus, disclosures for these cards can be spotty, making it hard to know exactly how much your card is costing you.
Instead, look for a free checking account. Many institutions have scaled back their offerings, but some banks and credit unions still offer them.
2. Debit card
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Along with your checking account, sign up for a debit card. Make sure it has a Visa or MasterCard logo and can be used like a credit card.
Having a debit card can eliminate the need to rack up debt for purchases, particularly purchases for which it is impossible to use cash or a check.
Although I know that some people are fans of credit cards, my personal experience has shown that the temptation to overspend when using credit negates a credit card’s benefits for many people. If you can’t bear the thought of giving up your credit card rewards, look for a bank that offers a debit card rewards program.
3. High-yield savings account
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Every household should have an emergency fund — it’s your own personal form of insurance.
Typically, you’ll want your fund to be large enough to pay at least three to six months’ worth of expenses. Since that can be a fairly significant amount of money, you don’t want the cash languishing in a typical savings account, where it will earn next to nothing.
Savings rates aren’t great right now, but if you park money in a high-yield savings account, it could generate around 1 percent interest.
4. Health insurance
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Health care can come with an enormous price tag, especially if you develop a serious health condition.
You may think you’re healthy or young, but even the most robust people get in car accidents and can be struck down by devastating illnesses. Unless you’re worth millions and can easily pay your own medical bills, going without health insurance is just plain dumb. (Plus, unless Congress repeals Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act’s mandate sets financial penalties for anyone who fails to buy health insurance.)
5. Homeowners or renters insurance
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If your home burns down, will you be left on the street?
That’s what happens to some people who fail to insure their property. Homeowners insurance policies are relatively inexpensive for the coverage they provide, so there is little reason not to have one.
These policies typically pay to rebuild your house in the event of a total loss, such as from a fire. They also generally give you the funding to repair storm damage and vandalism.
However, don’t expect your policy to cover damage from flooding. You’ll need a separate policy for that.
If you’re renting, don’t think your landlord’s insurance policy will pay for your stuff. Instead, cover yourself with some cheap renters insurance.
6. Auto insurance
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Aside from your home, your car may be your most valuable asset.
While many states require you to carry at least a minimal level of coverage, you may want to consider getting additional car insurance coverage, depending on your assets and income.