Is a financial check-up on your spring cleaning list?
With all the time at home this past year, we’ve all already tackled that out-of-control closet or cleaned out the garage. It’s time to let some fresh air into your home office and use these six tips to freshen up how you spend, save, and plan for the future.
1. Pay yourself first.
Making automatic contributions into your savings, investment, and retirement accounts is a small budget adjustment that can go a long way towards building wealth over time. Is there extra money in your monthly cash flow that you could use to increase your investments? How much extra could you contribute per year if you automated your savings and contributions?
2. Review your monthly statements.
Automating your investments and bill payments doesn’t mean that you never have to check on them. Get back in the habit of reviewing your monthly bank and credit card statements. Make a list of all your recurring charges and subscriptions and consider canceling anything you’re not using enough to justify the expense. Review the terms and conditions of your accounts and be sure you understand what fees, if any, your financial institutions might be charging you and what benefits you might be overlooking.
3. Shop around.
Are you tired of paying fees, or has the cost shot up unexpectedly? Don’t continue to pay. There might be better deals elsewhere. Do a little comparison shopping, and don’t be afraid to play some hardball if you can find ways to save money every month. Even a little bit of cost savings add up in the end.
4. Check your credit report and score.
Understand that checking your credit will not automatically lower your score.
AnnualCreditReport.com is a website mandated by federal law that you should visit at least once per year to make sure no one has opened unauthorized accounts in your name. You can use a free credit score service to see where you stand with potential lenders and check for any major fluctuations in your score, which could be another indicator of fraud. Together, these reports help limit any surprises if you’re preparing for a big purchase in the coming year like a car or new home.
5. Scan and shred.
Digitizing your financial records can save space and simplify tax season. There are many apps and online services that can help you replace your filing cabinet with a cloud-backed folder. (Make sure it has proper security before uploading all your sensitive information.)
Once you’ve backed up your statements and receipts, you can shred anything that’s over three years old. Review your hard copy filing system and make sure that your birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, insurance policies, and estate plan are stored safely.
6. Meet with your advisor.
How have your short-term and long-term financial goals changed in the last year? Are you thinking about making a career change? Are your teenagers scouting colleges? Is there a new baby on the way? Do you want to start making a bigger impact in your community through sustained giving? Is this the year you’re finally going to start your own company? Do you or your spouse have any new health care concerns?
You should meet with your advisor at least once a year. Your financial plan should be a living document and updated with any big life events. Having the confidence you’re still on the path to your financial goals will put a fresh shine on the year ahead.