Area experts offer tips for financial independence

Jan. 8—As the cost of food, gasoline and utilities continues to climb and people aim to keep their New Year's resolutions, several financial advisers offered suggestions to help people make better fiscal decisions in 2023.

Jamie Kresge, president and CEO of Abington Financial Group in South Abington Twp., urges families and individuals to develop a safety net should they experience a hardship.

"The number one rule is making sure you have enough emergency reserve money accumulated for an unforeseen emergency — usually three to six months of your expenses," he said.

One way to start building up funds is reviewing expenses and cutting back wherever possible, including dining out, phone apps, and internet and TV service, Kresge said.

He also suggests comparing quotes for property and casualty insurances every three years to ensure you're getting the best deal.

Kresge developed a wide variety of clientele during more than 30 years in the business — from younger people starting off, those preparing to retire and elderly individuals — and noted the last couple of years have been very challenging for people to understand financially.

"Reviewing the clients' portfolios and overall financial objectives, and guiding them through it, has been huge," he said. "There are always going to be uncertainties in the economy, the markets, and the world. We're helping to make sure they're accomplishing their goals."

Kresge stressed the importance of taking the emotional component out of investing.

"I try to tell my clients you can't project the future ... nobody has that crystal ball," he said.

Christopher D. Ross, managing partner of Scranton-based Alliance Wealth Advisors, suggests creating a list of financial assets and liabilities called a balance sheet as a starting point for achieving better finances.

"I think a lot of people focus on some things they can't control," he said. "Looking at your spending vs. savings and building that balance sheet is one of the key initiatives we recommend to investors."

While Ross recognizes some people may become overwhelmed by the task and delay their planning, he added the process can be done incrementally.

"You don't have to do it all at once," Ross said. "It's the small little steps and decisions that could lead to major results at the end."

Ross also suggests putting a positive spin on budgeting — like when planning a vacation — to help accumulate savings.

"Don't always equate budgeting with negativity," he said.

Terrence W. Casey, president of Wilkes-Barre-based Chancellor Financial Group, expects many of the same economic trends in the new year.

"I think volatility in the stock market is going to continue because of a lot of geopolitical pressure as well as the Fed with the interest rates," he said. "People need to pay attention to budgeting and try to ensure they have a reliable level of cash available. There has to be a focus on projecting how inflation is going to impact your buying habits for the next year."

Casey also advises people not to immediately invest if they are dependent on those funds.

"You don't want to be putting your money into the market right now if you're going to need it in the next six months to a year because you don't want to have to sell it when there is a down market," he said.

He urges consumers to consider consolidating debt whenever possible as another way to boost their finances.

"Credit card interest is rising at a lot faster rate than the rate of inflation," Casey said. "The best thing you can do is manage your debt and, if needed, consolidate your credit card debt into a home equity loan or personal loan. Pay off the credit cards and then pay the more affordable, reliable interest from the bank because the interest rate you're paying on the credit cards is huge."

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