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Financial Spring Cleaning

It’s spring; and for most of us that means packing up the winter clothes, cleaning out closets, washing windows, and getting rid of the clutter that has built up over the winter months. Spring is also a good time to organize your financial life and possibly save some money in the process.

Here are seven steps you can take to renew, review and refresh your finances:Dustpan_2

  1. Get rid of clutter. From time to time we all clean out our closets and get rid of clothes that no longer fit, or items we just don’t want. It’s also a good idea to get rid of financial clutter. Do you have magazine subscriptions, memberships or premium movie channel subscriptions that you rarely or never use? What about your credit cards? Now is a good time to pay down debt and eliminate any unnecessary cards – especially those with high interest rates.
  2. Pull your credit report and clean up any bad credit.  Did you know that you are entitled to at least three free copies of your credit report each year? You get one from each of the three major credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax, and you can access them all through the government-mandated website AnnualCreditReport.com. Don’t go to a gimmicky website that requires you to buy their service in exchange for your “free” credit score. It’s not uncommon to find mistakes showing problems that shouldn’t exist. It is your responsibility to keep tabs and file a dispute to report any mistakes.
  3. Properly dispose of old paperwork. When cleaning out old bank statements, receipts, paycheck stubs, credit card statements and utility bill statements, be sure to do it properly to help avoid identity theft. Invest in a cross-cut paper shredder and shred everything that contains an account number and your personal identity. Even window envelopes that contain a small bar code can contain your personal information, so be sure to shred those as well. Better yet, contact your bank, credit card companies and utility providers and ask to make your accounts “paperless”. You can receive and pay your bills online and drastically reduce the amount of paper you would need to handle.
  4. Get organized. Determine which documents you should keep and how long to keep them, then file them away. Now is also a good time to set up a file for the next year’s taxes. File any receipts and statements that you will need to report on your tax return. Just knowing where everything is will bring much-needed peace of mind when tax time rolls around again.
  5. Check beneficiaries.  Not all financial accounts are covered under your will, if you have one. Instead, the assets go directly to a beneficiary named at the time the account was opened or policy purchased. As the years pass, life changes – marriage, divorce, children, loved ones pass away. Now is a good time to review those accounts and policies and possibly change beneficiaries to make sure the money will go where you want it to.
  6. Revisit your insurance. Our economy has suffered over the past few years and we have all felt the effects. For many of us, circumstances have changed (jobs, cars, homes or home values, etc.). Have you made changes to your insurance as these changes have occurred? If not, you might be paying for more than you need, or you might have too little coverage, which could become a problem if you have a claim.
  7. Embrace technology. With smart phones and tablets, we can have instant access to any information needed no matter where we are. There are numerous apps and alerts available from banks, financial institutions and independent agencies that can help to keep spending on track. From setting budgets, to setting up alerts when balances get low, to reminders to pay credit cards and bills – these apps can save you hundreds of dollars in interest and late fees.

Looking for more ways to get your finances under control and keep them that way? A trusted financial advisor can offer assistance with consolidating debt, diversifying investments and planning for future expenses.