Is a financial check-up on your Spring-Cleaning list? Once you've tidied your lawn and emptied that out-of-control closet, 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 those investments? How much extra could you contribute per year if you went from five coffee shop visits per week down to two, or started packing your lunch every day?
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 cancelling anything you're not using enough to justify the expense. Also 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.
And if you don't like those fees? Of if the cost of your cable bundle has shot up unexpectedly? Or if you never get near the data cap on your cell phone service? 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 a few bucks every month.
4. Check your credit report and score.
No, 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 that no one has opened unauthorized accounts in your name. You can also 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 will help limit any surprises if you're preparing for a big purchase in the coming year, such as 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, but snapping pictures of important documents with your cell phone is an easy way to get started. Once you've backed up your statements and receipts you can shred anything that's over three years old. Also 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?
We use your answers to these kinds of questions to guide our Life-Centered Planning process. Annually, it’s a good idea to check if dust is settling on some out-of-date plans or if the path to any of your financial goals is feeling a little cluttered. Give us a call and we’ll schedule a meeting to shake off some cobwebs and put a fresh shine on the year ahead.