The new year has begun and that means it is time to get fit, and not just the kind that gets us in the gym. Getting financially fit for 2023 is just as important.

Pamela Cotton of Austin Telco Federal Credit Union joined Studio 512 Co-Host Stephanie Gilbert to tell us more about how to accomplish that goal this year.

What can someone do to start preparing to be financially fit at the start of the year?

“Start by creating a new budget for the year. Think of any vacations, birthdays, maintenance and projects, seasonal shopping, and holidays that will come up throughout the year. Create an emergency fund for any unexpected expenses that may occur.”

“Start thinking about how much you would like to deposit into your IRA or 401k next year. Open money market accounts, saving accounts, and share certificates to save for those events. You should gather tax documents from your financial institution as soon as they are ready. Austin Telco offers e-statements. You will receive an email notifying you your tax forms are ready.”

“Set financial goals for the year. Maybe a goal is to have a better credit score or pay off debt. Order an annual free credit report to evaluate your debt and see what accounts can be paid off to help you reach your financial goals. If you plan to pay more towards your mortgage principal or pay off credit cards — this can be a helpful tool to help you reach your goals. Also, start thinking of investing so that your money works for you.”

You mentioned credit cards. What advice would you give to someone who would like a better credit score but also loves using rewards cards for the perks?

“Your credit score is calculated by looking at five categories, each with varying levels of importance: your payment history (35%), credit utilization (30%), the length of your credit history (15%), new credit (10%), and type of credit used (10%). The first two categories carry the most weight, so focus on getting those percentages as low as possible.”

“Rewards credit cards generally have higher Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) than other cards, so if you can’t pay the balance on these cards in full every month, it’s best to keep using one or none at all. Using multiple cards can also make it harder to keep track of how much you’re spending.”

To learn more about Austin Telco Federal Credit Union and how to start your new year right on the goal to financial fitness, follow them on social media or to go ATFCU.org.

This segment is paid for by Austin Telco Federal Credit Union and is intended as an advertisement. Opinions expressed by the guest(s) on this program are solely those of the guest(s) and are not endorsed by this television station.