Cutting your expenses and your risk of heart attack: 10 steps to heart health through smart financial decisions

Did you ever think that smart financial planning could save your life? Well, it can -- especially if you consider the fact that worry over personal finances is one of the chief stressors that can lead to heart attacks. In the interest of helping you stay alive long enough to see your grandkids grow old, here are 10 steps you should be taking to ensure your financial health... and, consequently, your heart health.

  1. Make a monthly budget and stick to it. In order to do this, you'll have to tally up all of your expenses and compare them against all sources of income. Once you've reconciled every penny, set aside as much money as possible to put into savings. This is a cornerstone of sound financial planning.
  2. Build an emergency fund with your savings. Put away enough money to cover you for six months of expenses if all of your income sources should suddenly dry up. Do this first before using your savings to pay off any other bills.
  3. Make the most of your Social Security benefits. There are various ways of accomplishing this, but the most effective method of getting the most money from it is to avoid taking early benefits by waiting until you've reached your full retirement age to cash in.
  4. Study your monthly billing statements for hidden fees. If you've got a cell phone or cable TV, you could be paying fees for services that you don't use or don't need, such as insurance on your phone or cable TV box.
  5. Ensure you're getting the best interest rates and services through your financial institution. Even if you've been well taken care of by your bank or credit union, it's important to compare interest rates against other institutions to ensure you're getting the most competitive deals on the market.
  6. Check for annual fees on your credit card statements. There are many credit card companies that don't charge annual fees and that would be glad to have your business if you decide to make the switch. In some cases, a credit card company may agree to waive annual fees in order to keep you on as a customer.
  7. Ask for senior discounts. Don't be shy, and never be ashamed to ask. These types of discounts are there for a reason and vendors who offer them are glad to do so. Find out if you qualify for discounts at restaurants, hotels, car rental companies, pharmacies, movie theaters, and just about anywhere you can think of.
  8. Hire an accountant to prepare your taxes every year instead of doing them yourself. While many people think that using automated programs will save them the cost of hiring an actual accountant, the truth is that relying on the expertise of a professional could save you a lot more money in taxes than you'll end up paying out for their services.
  9. Smart financial planning also requires that you combine your auto insurance and your home insurance to take advantage of bundled discounts.
  10. Once a year, compare auto and homeowner insurance premiums with other companies to ensure you're getting the most competitive rate. If you can find a better rate elsewhere, make the switch.

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