9 Ways to Build Wealth in 2011

  • Funnel that FICA Cut into a Retirement Windfall

    David Bendix, CPA/PFS, CFP, president of The Bendix Financial Group:

    Take the money you won't pay in FICA, or Federal Insurance Contributions Act, taxes this year and redirect it to your 401(k). "It's a great concept that you're taking that 2 percent and using it to fund your retirement," he says. "It's one great technique for the coming year."

    Tip for success: For the maximum impact, talk with human resources ASAP and change your deductions, Bendix says. One hopes the habit of saving a little more will stick with you through next year, too, he says.

  • Look for Low-Cost Mutual Funds and Watch those Fees

    Jill Gianola, CFP, owner of Gianola Financial Planning, LLC, and author of "The Young Couple's Guide to Growing Rich Together":

    "One of my favorite ways to build wealth is to pay close attention to the cost of investing and stick to low-cost, no-load mutual funds," she says.

    One example: "If you invested $10,000 in small-cap, value funds with a commission and higher-than-average operating expenses and earned 7 percent a year for 10 years, your balance would be $16,005 and you would have paid a sales charge of $575 and $1,890 in operating expenses," she says.

    "Compare that to investing the same amount for the same time period earning the same return in a no-load, small-cap, value fund with low operating expenses," she says. "Your balance would be $19,128 and you would have paid $408 in operating expenses." The difference: $3,123.

    Tip for success: Calculate cost and differences with Bankrate's mutual fund fees calculator.

  • No shortcuts: year after year of consistent savings

    Ric Edelman, chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services LLC, and author of "The Truth About Money":

    "The best way to build wealth remains unchanged: Invest as much money as you can (which is usually more than you think you can) into a diversified set of low-cost mutual funds and exchange-traded funds -- and keep doing this for many years, no matter what."

  • Get rid of high-interest card debt

    David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies:

    "For most people, building wealth is not about what to do with excess disposable income," he says, but "how to keep more of the money that they earn."

    "The best way to do that: Reduce the amount of money spent on interest payments -- especially high-interest payments attached to credit card purchases," Jones says. "If a consumer can work to pay off just one high-interest credit card and not overcharge it again, then the money saved after it is paid off can go to a building-wealth plan. This may not be easy, and it may take time, but it's a realistic goal for just about every consumer."

    Tip for success: Find a certified credit counselor to help you draft your own personal spending plan for free. To find one, visit either the AICCCA or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

    "If the consumer sticks to that plan, it will be their best chance to begin a systematic process for building wealth," Jones says. "It may be modest at first, but with diligence, everyone can have a chance to improve their financial circumstances."

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