Explore Life & Money

Let’s be honest: financial planning can be confusing, stressful, and just plain boring. But when you focus on the kind of life you want—the goals, needs, and dreams you have for yourself and your family—your decisions about money get a lot easier. We’re here to help you explore the financial topics that matter to your life.

Looking for more in-depth guidance? Talk to your advisor to create a financial plan for your specific needs and goals.

  • Understanding your credit report & score

    Woman and man checking their credit report and score.

    Many of us know what our credit score is—but how did we get there? Find out how your credit report and score work, and how you can access, review, and improve your credit.

    Get your credit report

    First thing’s first: It’s important to regularly review your credit report to see where you stand. All credit bureaus are required to provide an annual free copy of your report. Here’s how to request your free copy (it’s the only website authorized by the federal government).

    Dig into the numbers

    Think of it like a report card for your finances. This video can help you break down the numbers to make sure your credit report is accurate.

    Check for errors

    While some mistakes won’t hurt your credit, others can have a big impact. Keep an eye out for these three most common credit report errors.

    Find an error? The reporting process depends on the type of error, but can be completed online or by mail in most cases. Get tips on how to report an error.

    Understand your credit score

    Your credit score compares a variety of financial factors, using info from your report. Higher scores typically mean easier loan approvals and lower interest rates.

    Improve your score

    Good credit scores are usually at or above 700. Not quite there yet? Here are some dos and don’ts for improving your credit score.

    Stay on top of it

    Check your credit report at least once a year. Knowing your credit situation—and how you can maintain or improve it—can help you head down the right financial path.

    Have an account with Principal®?

    Access it online to see investments, coverage, and more.

    Simplify your finances

    Receive our free monthly financial tips for ideas on saving money, managing debt and more. 

  • Tax time tips: Prepare for this season—and next

    It’s that time of year again: tax season. But with a little preparation, it can be less stressful. Here are some tips for 2017—and a few that will give you a head start on next year’s taxes.

    What’s new

    With every new tax season, it’s a good idea to check out what new laws, requirements, or other changes have gone into effect. Here’s what you should know for 2016 tax filing.

    Be prepared

    Do you have all of your documents? This IRS checklist can help you figure out what you need to make the filing process go smoothly.

    Know your deductions

    Sales tax and student loan interest paid by your parents are just two of the 10 most overlooked tax deductions that could put more money back in your pocket.

    Track your charitable donations

    Monetary donations and physical items are eligible for tax deduction. Try these apps to help you easily track your contributions. Start now so you’ll be all set next tax season.

    Documents and receipts—keep or shred?

    It depends. In general, the IRS recommends keeping copies of tax returns and supporting documents at least three years. But you may need to keep some documents seven years, like real estate records.

    Get ready for next year

    Whether you’ve already filed or you’re preparing to, take advantage of this time and get organized. Create a filing system, or use apps to digitally manage your info so you’re ready to enter next tax season with everything you need.

    Have an account with Principal®?

    Access it online to see investments, coverage, and more.

    Get in touch

    Learn how we can help you plan for the life you want—today and in the future.

  • Reflecting on the market

    Woman reflecting on changes in the market in 2016.

    Staying on top of your investments and the market doesn’t just make you smart. It also helps you make informed decisions about your plan for retirement. We pulled together 2016 events that helped shape the world of investments. Spend a few minutes looking back, then determine what future you want and the steps you need to take to get there.

    January

    Worst start ever: The S&P 500 recorded its worst two-week opening in history after the Fed raised interest rates in December 2015.1 Even with the hike, interest rates around the world remained historically low.

    February

    Making a comeback: The Dow reached its lowest point in the middle of the month after falling oil prices, a slowdown in China and losses in stocks.2 But it quickly turned around for the biggest quarterly comeback in 83 years.3

    June

    Getting through Brexit: After an uphill climb following a slow start, the S&P 500 took a dip due to Brexit-induced uncertainty. Luckily, the market got back on track, and even reached an all-time high by the end of the year.4

    November

    Election of Donald Trump: A whirlwind campaign season ended with the election of billionaire real estate developer and reality T.V. star Donald Trump. We expected market volatility, but the markets surprised us with a positive reaction. It goes to show that a long-term strategy and removing emotion can be important to investing.4

    Decade-low unemployment: The 4.6 percent unemployment rate was the lowest we’ve seen in nearly 10 years. But while some rejoiced, others were skeptical due to the ongoing debate over who’s actually included in the labor force. Regardless, the rate is a huge improvement compared to the rate after the financial crisis.5

    December

    All-time marketing high: There was evidence of a rapid stock market fall on election night; however, the S&P 500, NASDAQ and Dow Jones reached all-time highs in December. Keep watching to see where markets trend in 2017.

    Fed raises key interest rate .25%: On December 14, the Fed announced it had increased the Federal Funds Rate from .5 percent to .75 percent while also indicating that more interest rate increases are expected in 2017.6

    Low but rising Treasury yields: With the prospect of an increased fiscal stimulus and the likelihood of rising inflation, U.S. Treasury yields went up during the last two months of the year. However, a 30-year Treasury bond still has a yield about equal to the core inflation rate.7

    Looking forward

    Like most years, the market had plenty of ups and downs in 2016. But a long-term focus and diversified portfolio may help you ride them out.

    We’ll continue to keep an eye on the market in 2017 while you stay focused on your long-term goals.

    From Brexit to Pokémon

    Get even more details about 2016 events that shaped the world of investments.

    Retirement planning education

    We’re here to help you understand the financial topics that matter to you and how they may apply to the kind of life you want. Learn how you might use the information to help improve your financial future in 30 minutes or less of your time.

    Have an account with Principal®?

    Access it online to see investments, coverage, and more.

  • Create a financial game plan: Working with an advisor

    Winning plays aren’t just for sports teams. Everyday investors need strategies for success, too. Consider these five questions as you begin building or reviewing your financial game plan. 

    1. Do I need a financial advisor?

    Typically, yes. Financial advisors do more than just help with your investments. They help you plan for your financial future. A financial advisor can help by assisting with things like estate planning and reducing your debt.

    2. How do I choose a financial advisor?

    A good place to start is to ask friends and family for recommendations. You can also explore resources online or contact an advisor from your employer’s retirement plan, if you have one. Then, set up a meeting to discuss your financial needs and goals.

    3. What should I bring to my meeting?

    Whether this is your first meeting with an advisor or a check-in with your existing advisor, maximize your time by preparing ahead. Ask about specific documents you should bring, like bank statements and tax returns.

    4. What questions should I ask?

    Maybe you want to reprioritize your budget, save more, or review your retirement planning strategy. Think about any financial questions—no matter how big or small—and write them down ahead of time.

    If this is your first time working with an advisor, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. And don’t be shy about asking what their fees are, either. It’s important to know how they expect to be paid for their services.

    5. How often should I meet with my advisor?

    Once you’ve got a financial game plan in place, take a timeout once a year to review and update your plan. Major life events and changing goals may mean you need to adjust your financial plays.

    Make sure you’re always on a winning team

    It’s never too early or too late to start working with an advisor. They can help you take the emotion and stress out of financial strategies—so you can plan for your financial future. 

    Get in touch

    Learn how we can help you build a strong financial game plan—no matter what stage of life you’re in.

    Simplify your finances

    Receive our free monthly financial tips for ideas on saving money, managing debt and more. 

    Have an account with Principal®?

    Access it online to see investments, coverage, and more.

  • It’s resolution time: Financial tips for the new year

    A new year is just around the corner. As you set resolutions and goals for 2017, make sure that a financial plan is on your list. Here are some tips to help you get started.

    Take control of your finances

    Making financial decisions today can have a positive impact on your life years down the road. Unfortunately, waiting to make these decisions can have the opposite effect.

    Stay on the path to a brighter financial future by reviewing these 10 financial choices you’ll regret in 10 years. Then, put together a financial "not-to-do" list to help keep you on track.

    And remember, a retirement strategy can be a key part of financial planning. These four quick steps can help you get your retirement savings in order and begin building the future you want.  

    Set goals—and a budget

    Working with a financial advisor can be a big help in this area. If you don’t have an advisor, ask friends and family for recommendations. You can also explore resources online, or contact an advisor from your employer's retirement plan, if you have one. Then, set up a meeting to discuss your financial needs and goals.

    If you’d prefer to create—or reevaluate—your budget on your own, apps like Mint give you a complete, real-time look at your money. By syncing all of your accounts, the app automatically tracks and categorizes your spending for you. Plus, you can set a budget limit and receive notifications if you reach your limit.

    Save more money—and still have fun

    Spending less gives you the opportunity to pay down your debt, build your savings, and improve your overall financial outlook. These 100 money-saving tips can help you start your personal debt-relief program. 

    But saving more doesn’t mean you have to miss out on life. Here are 22 ways you can reduce your spending and have fun along the way. 

    You can even find ways to save on splurges (like vacations), too. Check out these hidden vacation locations that offer the same great experience at a lower cost.

    Use these tips to help you take on the new year with financial confidence—so you can live the life you want. 

    Simplify your finances

    Receive our free monthly financial tips for ideas on saving money, managing debt and more. 

    Get in touch

    Learn how we can help you plan for the life you want—today and in the future.

  • Living your fullest life: Ways to give back

    Understandably, we spend a lot of our lives focusing on money—how much we have, how we can make more, whether we’re saving enough. But what truly makes us wealthy is time spent with others, both at home and in our communities.

    Here are some simple ways you can give your time, energy, and money to make a difference in the lives of others. 

    Volunteer your time

    Maybe you love caring for children or working with animals. Find an organization in your area that matches your passion and lend a helping hand. And while you may be inclined to volunteer during the holidays, keep in mind that there are many opportunities throughout the year where your time may be needed even more.

    Donate to a good cause

    If your free time is scarce, a gift of money is always appreciated. Even small donations make a difference. Give to your local food bank, homeless shelter, church, hospital, or whatever organization inspires you. Or, consider giving directly to a friend or loved one who’s in need.

    Pay it forward

    Doing good doesn’t need to take a lot of time or money. Small gestures, like buying coffee for the person behind you in line, can unexpectedly brighten someone’s day—and inspire them to pay your kindness forward to others.

    Encourage kids to embrace giving, too

    Teach your children that they have the power to make a difference in the world. Bring them with you when you volunteer. Or, on their birthday or during the holidays, gift them money to donate to the cause of their choice, or donate on their behalf.

    Remember what matters

    While money (and saving for the future) is important, it’s what we share with others that makes us truly rich.

    Simplify your finances

    Receive our free monthly financial tips for ideas on saving money, managing debt and more. 

    Get in touch

    Learn how we can help you plan for the life you want—today and in the future.

    Have an account with Principal®?

    Access it online to see investments, coverage, and more.

Retirement planning education

We’re here to help you understand the financial topics that matter to you and how they may apply to the kind of life you want. Learn how you might use the information to help improve your financial future in 30 minutes or less of your time.

Simplify your finances

Receive our free monthly financial tips for ideas on saving money, managing debt and more. 

Have an account with Principal®?

Access it online to see investments, coverage, and more.

Find your Retirement Wellness Score

Use our planner to see if you are on track to meet your retirement goals.