Here are seven steps to take now.
1. Save only the necessary paper, and save in an organized way. Yes, you needed receipts for business expenses, so clean out a small drawer or buy a wire desktop basket and clean out your wallet regularly, throwing those receipts into the basket. It's amazing how much time you will save -- and how much money -- next April, or when you file your expense reimbursement forms at work.
2. Stop receiving paper when you can. There's no need to get bank statements in the mail every month, since your bank allows you access to an online archive. Similarly, elect to receive your brokerage and mutual fund statements online. You can easily vote your share holdings online. If everyone did that, we would save a forest every year!
3. Consolidate accounts. There's definitely a point at which having too many financial accounts complicates your ability to make smart money decisions. You'll want to stay under the insured limits for bank CD's, but that doesn't mean you need small accounts in different banks. In fact, I'd you have a larger profile at one bank, you could pay less in fees or get free checking. Similarly, consolidating stock-trading accounts could earn you commission discounts. Fewer accounts means fewer organizational challenges.
4. Organize your financial life. You can't completely eliminate paper, but you can keep it organized. If you were killed in an accident today, would your family know where to find all your assets? What about your life insurance policies, your will and trusts, your cemetery deed? Do your loved ones a favor and buy a small, locked file box and leave instructions. (You can get a link to my free financial organizer form at TerrySavage.com, to serve as a guide for your family.)
5. Deal with your credit cards. If you're carrying more than two or three cards in your wallet, leave some at home. If you don't use some cards anymore, consider closing the accounts. (But hang onto your oldest cards, as longevity helps your credit score.) And make a list of outstanding balances and finance rates on each card, so you can pay them down more rationally.
6. Make a list of everything in your wallet. If your wallet or purse were stolen, would you even know what's missing? List the cards, account numbers -- and the toll-free number listed on the back of the card so you can act quickly in case of theft. Don't forget your driver's license number! And take anything with your Social Security number out of your wallet. That includes Medicare cards for seniors!
7. Review your 401(K) or IRA investment choices. The first quarter has just ended and this is a good time to make adjustments. For unbiased advice, use the free link to FinancialEngines.com on TerrySavage.com. Most of the Fortune 100 companies offer this service to their retirement plan participants. They'll let you know how to best adjust your portfolio to reach your retirement goals.
Well, that is a seven-point financial spring-cleaning list. If you do one every day, you'll be finished in a week. And you'll feel a lot better for having accomplished it. That's The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5's 4:30 p.m. newscast, and can be reached at www.terrysavage.com. She is the author of the new book, "The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?" "Terry answers readers' personal finance questions on her blog at www.TerrySavage.com. To find out more about Terry Savage and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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