• Live within your means. I agree that this should make it to the Final Four. Actually, I would retitle this “live below your means.” You only have a limited amount of money. To meet your goals, you have to reduce your expenses so that you get to keep some of what you make for savings.
• Protect yourself with adequate insurance. Thirty-nine percent of U.S. adults do not have life insurance, according to a survey released last year by InsuranceQuotes.com. If you put this in your winning bracket, don’t just focus on life insurance. Determine what other insurance you might need. For instance, if you rent, do you have renter’s insurance? Only 34 percent of renters have renter’s insurance, InsuranceQuotes found in another survey.
• Tackle debt. Stop promising yourself to get out of debt and, instead, do it. List your debts starting with the lowest balance and knock that debt off first. Often getting rid of some debt quickly motivates people to continue on their quest to be debt-free.
• Build an emergency savings account. If you live below your means, you’ll likely have the money to start an emergency fund.
My Final Four were “manage food costs” (our eating out has gotten crazy), “pull credit reports” (haven’t done that yet this year), “track spending” and “calculate retirement” (I’ve done this before but I need to update some numbers).
Once you finish the bracket, you can go to www.smartaboutmoney.org, which is a program of the National Endowment for Financial Education. On the site you can look for more information to meet your goals.
While you’re watching the basketball games or during breaks, fill out this bracket. You can’t lose.