Title

Spring clean your finances

Created date

March 26th, 2013

Spring is in the air. There s something about those first warm breezes and early glimpses of green that inspire many of us to start clearing out closets and organizing cupboards. You can harness that same springtime energy to get your financial house in order. When there is clutter and disorganization, it is impossible to review each asset and see how it fits into the overall financial picture, says Minnesota retirement advisor Joe Lucey (securedretirements.com). We asked experts around the country for their best tips for spring cleaning your finances. Try a few (or all!) of them to streamline your money management by Memorial Day. 1. When it comes to investment accounts, Lucey s advice is to consolidate. Too many mutual funds or retirement plans means more snail mail. Plus, Lucey says you may overlook accounts with small balances, skewing your overall financial picture. 2. Online banking is not only a secure alternative, but it can help you reduce clutter. Statements are generally archived, which reduces filing of outdated statements and it can eliminate the need to shred documents later, Lucey says. 3. Do you have a bunch of credit cards you rarely use? New York financial attorney Leslie Tayne (attorney-newyork.com/index.php) says to close inactive accounts, especially store credit cards, to tidy up your wallet and your financial life. 4. Attack mailbox clutter before it accumulates by registering credit cards, utility bills, and other accounts for paperless statements. Tayne recommends creating an email address specifically to receive bills so you can access them in one place. 5. Phoenix credit counselor Kevin Gallegos (freedomfinancialnetwork.com) says you can streamline bill payment even further by setting up automatic online payment through your checking account. In addition to time, Gallegos says you may save some money because some lenders will provide a reduced interest rate for use of their automated payment services. 6. The only surefire way to ensure your credit is clean is to check it yourself. Gallegos says you can get your report free once yearly at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228. 7. You can actually make money by clearing out clutter. Gallegos recommends holding a yard sale to turn unwanted household items into cash. It is not hard for many people to find an extra $500 during the year with some focus and effort, he says. 8. Do you have a drawer full of gift cards? Clean out that drawer, Gallegos says, and treat yourself to a free meal or round of golf in the process. 9. Vow to tackle paper clutter this spring. If you have filing cabinets full of old account statements, invest in a good shredder. Texas estate planner James Poe (texasretirementspecialists.com/index.php) says you can shred monthly statements once quarterly statements arrive and shred quarterlies when you get your annual statement. Hang onto annual statements as long as the account is open, he advises. 10. You should keep tax returns for seven years, but they needn t take up precious office space. Poe says to scan returns and save them to a flash drive to be stored in a safe place such as your jewelry safe. meghan.streit@erickson.com

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