4 strategies to improve your finances in 2013

By Tom Musbach

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This article is part of JustAnswer's "Resolution Rescue" series to boost success with common New Year resolutions. Previous: "What you must do to reach your goal to quit smoking."

Whether you have a money-related New Year's resolution or not, most of us want to protect and grow our finances in 2013. But with the U.S. economy in an unpredictable state, how can you be sure to improve your situation?

Two experienced financial Experts on JustAnswer offer these four ways you can start.

Set a goal. "You will never achieve any financial success unless you have a goal first," said Randall Klein, a tax specialist on JustAnswer. He stressed that the goal should be specific, achievable, and measurable.

"Don't just say, 'When I have enough, I'll buy a new car,'" he said. "Rather say, 'I will buy a Camaro, in 24 months or less, and I will pay cash.'"

Take advantage of low interest rates. "You will probably never see interest rates this low again in your lifetime," said John-Paul Valdez, an economist and finance expert on JustAnswer. "Get your credit score in order, and buy long-term assets -- like a house or car -- if you haven't done so already."

Prepare for retirement now. "It's never too late to start saving for retirement," said Valdez.

He offered this sample scenario: If each spouse saves $100 twice a month in an IRA or 401(k) starting at age 40, the couple would have roughly $275,000 at age 65. Saving half that still would leave you with $125,000, he said.

Keep income taxes in perspective. Klein said he's often asked about what people can do to save more on taxes, but he believes that's the wrong focus.

"Stop worrying about the tax tail wagging the income dog," he said. "Worry about figuring ways to make more money, not about one little thing that can save you $500 at the end of the year."

But the best way to reduce your taxes, he added, is to meet with a tax Expert now about planning your 2013 return -- instead of reviewing your 2012 situation.

If you have specific questions or concerns about your economic situation, you can consult with a finance Expert right now on JustAnswer.

For help in succeeding all your 2013 goals, try our My Goal Tracker tool and build on your success!