Your best money year ever

For years and years, I lived under a dark cloud of worry that I would end up financially destitute, a bag lady. A study conducted by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America reveals that I’m not the only one. In fact, most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke but because we don’t have confidence that we know how to hang on to our money. And that makes us timid, worried and financially insecure.

We don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about it.

Financial confidence is a choice. It’s a matter of changing bad habits and choosing to learn simple financial principles. Then, by consciously applying them over and over again, those principles will become automatic responses — financial habits.

Are you ready to make 2017 your best money year ever? Here are four simple things you can do starting today to improve your financial confidence and take control of your money.

GET ANGRY. Decide once and for all that you will not sell your soul to the likes of MasterCard and Visa — not one more day, not one more purchase. Get righteously indignant about the very idea of transferring your future wealth to those corporations. Remember this: The borrower becomes a slave to the lender. Decide right now that you will do whatever it takes to get out of debt.

BECOME A SAVER. Saving money is like magic because it changes our attitudes and calms our fears. The simple act of choosing not to spend money so you can save it is a soul soother, a nerve calmer. You must start now, today, no matter your situation — even if you are in debt, even if you are struggling to catch up and even if you are already contributing to a 401(k) plan or some other kind of retirement account. This is different. You need money in the bank to boost your financial confidence.

Start with a dollar, if that is all you can manage, and stuff it in a coffee mug. Then, make it $5. Soon you will be saving $10, $20 and even $50 a week, plus all the change from the sofa cushions and the washing machine.

SET A FINANCIAL GOAL. For any plan to succeed, it needs to be specific, reasonable and measurable. For example, let’s say you want to save $2,400 in the coming year, meaning about $50 a week. That may be reasonable, provided you are willing to really stretch and make adjustments in other areas. And you can certainly measure your progress by simply checking your account balance regularly.

As you begin to understand that money and personal finance are empowering, not repulsive, you will open the door to taking control of your finances. You will make progress one step at a time. And single steps taken consistently amount to miles.

This year really could be your best money year. It’s not a decision that anyone else can make. It’s up to you.

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To Shred, or Not to Shred?

Can someone legally dig through your trash looking for credit card receipts, account numbers or even your Social Security number? In the decision of California v. Greenwood, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the “expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public” is unreasonable.

In other words, when you throw something in your trash and then drag the container to the street for pickup, it is available to anyone willing to overlook the disgusting smells and textures within.

Think that doesn’t happen? It has. It does. And sadly, it will continue.

WHY SHRED

In 2015, more than 13 million people fell victim to identity theft felonies in the U.S.

Identity fraud is a serious issue — this band of thieves has reportedly stolen $112 billion in the past six years. That equals $35,600 stolen per minute, or enough to pay for four years of college every four minutes.

Some of these victims could have prevented this from happening by simply shredding their identifying documents.

If you do not know how to effectively shred your most important documents, it’s time to learn.

WHAT TO SHRED

The rule of thumb is to shred any paper or document that contains personally identifying information, such as your signature, name, address, phone number, Social Security number, account number and any other information that is uniquely yours. That means anything and everything — the address labels on junk mail and magazines, luggage tags, pay stubs, ATM recipes, airline tickets, photocopies of birth certificates, expired passports and tax returns older than three years. When in doubt, err on the side of shredding.

HOW TO SHRED

As difficult as it is for me to imagine, some shredded documents can be reconstructed through painstaking tedious work by motivated identity thieves who have pressure-sensitive tape. If the shred strips a machine produces are fairly large, that is yet another potential hazard. To that end, tearing up your documents before you put them into the trash is a total waste of time. Even a child could put those pieces back together.

BEST INEXPENSIVE HOME SHREDDERS

My pick for the best inexpensive shredder is AmazonBasics 8-Sheet High-Security Micro-Cut Paper, CD and Credit Card Shredder with Pullout Basket. This model produces almost confetti-like shreds and operates for up to two minutes before needing a 40-minute cooldown. You can shred a lot in two minutes! And it will shred credit cards and CDs one at a time. It costs about $70.

Shredding, while mandatory for the paper in your life, doesn’t address private information in the hands of merchants and service providers and on social media. That’s where LifeLock Identity Theft Protection comes in to protect you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving. com and author of 18 books, including her latest, “Can I Pay My Credit Card Bill With a Credit Card?” You can email her at mary@everydaycheapskate. com.