How to ace your financial literacy in three easy steps

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Curtis Loftis

April was Financial Literacy Month- and a good time to begin remind individuals, regardless of their age, the importance of making good financial decisions.

From the internet to iPhone applications, information on how to best manage your money for the future is easily accessible, yet the statistics on financial literacy rates in America are alarming. More than half of American adults can't pass a test on basic financial issues, according to a survey by Raddon.

While knowledge regarding personal finance is lacking in many American households, there are ways to overcome hurdles associated with living in a financial fog.

If you don't know where to start, try some of these simple steps to begin your journey to a more financially literate lifestyle:

Automate your finances. From credit card bills, car loans, college savings deposits and more, you can set up automatic payments through your bank without much trouble. Doing so will ensure you consistently meet payment deadlines, making paying the bills more efficient and eliminating the chances of getting hit with late fees.

You can also set up smart phone and online banking alerts to remind yourself when you are close to going over your allotted spending allowance for the week. This will help you stick to your budget.

Give your piggy bank a boost. Between childcare, utilities, housing costs and other necessities, your paycheck might feel as if it's stretched thinner than a spider web. But even when you're bringing in far less than a king's ransom, saving is still possible.

Among the simplest ways is setting up an automatic transfer from your primary bank account to a savings account on the same day as your paycheck. By automatically deducting 5 or 10 percent from every paycheck,

you'll see your savings grow in a relatively painless manner. Soon it will become part of your routine.

Take advantage of resources. Luckily there are number of resources available for you to maximize your savings and manage your money:

Contributing to a 401(k) is easier than you think. Many companies offer perks such as matching up to a certain percentage, so putting in even just a small amount each month means free money.

Claim what's yours. Every year, millions of dollars are transferred to the states' Unclaimed Property Programs by companies that cannot locate the owners. These funds might be from a forgotten utility deposit, uncashed payroll check, stock dividends, and even life insurance proceeds.

You can search multiple states' unclaimed property database by visiting missingmoney.com. It's absolutely free. Remember to check often, because new funds are reported to the states every year.

There are many personal tax deductions available for common expenses you might be overlooking. These include charitable donations, certain transportation expenses and, in many states, even contributions to your child's 529 college savings plan.

Before filing your taxes each year, research tax-deductible expenses to ensure you are taking advantage of these tax-time opportunities.

Financial literacy doesn't require a complete lifestyle change. Follow these few simple steps to start building the foundation for a better financial future.

Curtis Loftis is the Treasurer of South Carolina and administrator of the Future Scholar College Savings Program.

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