3 Northwest Philly finance whizzes tell us how to get more out of our money in ’13

As New Year’s Day approaches, NewsWorks speaks with experts in the areas of fitness, financial health, habit-breaking and adventure-planning for tips on how to reach for the resolutions you may (or may not) be saying you’ll honor starting Tuesday. This series will run in the remaning days of 2012.

To help those hoping that 2013 brings better money management skills, NewsWorks reached out to financial experts in Northwest Philadelphia for some simple tips for finding more financial happiness.

Lesley Seitchik, director of marketing at Valley Green Bank, located at 7226 Germantown Ave. in Mount Airy gave the following suggestions:

Check your credit report
Establish and maintain good credit.
Pay your bills on time
 Repay your loans as committed
“Save, spend prudently,” starting now with the holiday bonus. Bank a big part of it
 Reevaluate your savings habits by considering if you are putting away a big enough percentage of your earnings and if you can add a little more
It’s never too early to start saving for your kids’ college tuition. Seitchik suggests considering a tax deferred 529 plan, an investment tool that helps you save for college.
Ask yourself if you’re on track to retire comfortably. “An accountant can help with retirement and challenging tax law questions,” said Seitchik.

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NewsWorks also turned to Jim Williamson, owner of Slices Pizza in East Falls, for advice. The longtime businessman was recommended by Gina Snyder, East Falls Development Corporation’s executive director.

Williamson said he lives his life based on the New York Times best-seller, “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy.” The 1998 book sheds light on the behavior of millionaires, including the fact that people who buy $5,000 watches are not the wealthy ones, said Williamson. It’s the thrifty individuals.

Below are Williamson’s suggestions:

Live below your means

Williamson said if you can afford a $60 pair of sneakers, buy the ones on sale and save the difference.

Set up automatic deductions from your bank account

Anytime you get extra money like a bonus or a raise, Williamson said you should immediately pull it out of your bank account and invest it. And don’t touch it afterward.

Buy a used car

“The biggest thing is being confident that you don’t always need the newest and fanciest things that come down the street,” said Williamson. “If you can be confident in yourself that you are still doing good without having to show off you will be fine.”

NewsWorks also reached out to Mt. Airy USA, a community development corporation that, among other things, provides a money literacy program entitled “Smart Money Club.”

Stephanie Butler, Mt. Airy USA’s director of housing counseling suggested the following:

Readers should always pay themselves first by setting a minimal amount aside every time they get paid.
Those with checking and savings accounts should avoid over drafting their accounts for various reasons such as fees, which can be reported to credit bureaus. She said owing a bank could potentially prevent you from opening a traditional bank account.
John McGovern from John E. McGovern and Associates, P.C. in Manayunk said:
 Set realistic financial goals about what you want to accomplish during the year and where you want to end up. Do you want to, for example, pay off some debt or save for college or retirement?
It’s essential to have a plan or budget and create a path for achieving your goals. As part of that, it’s important to periodically measure results against the plan to ensure you’re staying on track.
 Avoid high credit card and mortgage interest rates and take full advantage of tax breaks and initiatives when available.

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