How to Spring Clean Your Finances
May 17 2016
By now we're guessing you've already cleaned all your window screens and power-washed your house. Kudos to you if you have; we're still working on ours. So now that you've tackled those chores, it's time to move on to your finances. Before the weather gets any warmer and the kids escape from school, get your financial house in order so you can enjoy the summer.
Here's the game plan:
1. Review your insurance policies
Insurance policies are so easy to ignore. We spend time searching for the best policy that fits our needs at the time and then they go off the radar. We continue to pay the premiums and don't often give them a second thought. This is exactly why you should set aside time every year to review your policies and make any necessary adjustments.
If you've had a major life change, such as a divorce, a child, etc., make sure to look over your wills, trusts, and retirement plans, 401k, etc.
Take a careful look at your policies and make sure you aren't paying more than you need. Use this time to see if there are better rates you could be paying.
Are you taking advantage of a health savings account? Did you use every penny or did you lose out on money you had set aside? Do you foresee any changes that will require more money in your HSA this year -- new glasses, elective surgery? Update it now so you're able to maximize your tax benefits.
2. Prep for an emergency
Create a folder, preferably an encrypted digital one, that includes everything necessary to take care of your financial affairs should you be unable to do so. The folder should include:
- a list of all your financial accounts, locations, and account numbers
- user ids and passwords for all accounts
- a list of bills that you pay, including when you pay them, payment amounts, and the website/customer service numbers
- location and access information for all important documents such as wills, deeds, trusts, tax returns, loan documents, etc.
- a list of insurance policies and beneficiary information
- if you own your own business, include the succession or business continuity plan
Set aside an hour or two to sit down with your spouse, significant other, or the person who would handle your finances to review the folder and make sure they know where and how to access it.
3. Review your budget
If you have one, that is. If not, it's a great time to start one. One way to do it: try writing down everything you spend in a week. Collect the receipts you usually toss in the trash. Comb through your credit card statements and look for any recurring charges for gyms, magazines, and any internet subscriptions (Hulu, Netflix, etc.) that you forgot you were paying for and you're not using. Then set up your budget; we can help with this.
4. Take the first step in going paperless
The most important in setting up a paperless home is to reduce the amount of paper that comes through the door. Start here:
- Sign up for electronic statements with your bank, loans, and utilities
- Opt out of credit card and insurance offers here
- Opt out of receiving catalogs with catalogchoice.org
- Read your magazine subscriptions on a tablet
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