By Darrell Bryant
Right now many people are wondering what to do with the extra time on their hands while commuting, traveling, eating out, and socializing are on hold. Allow us to make a suggestion. Seeing as social distancing and spring cleaning are occurring simultaneously this year, it’s a perfect opportunity to not put off getting your finances in order any longer. Although decluttering and organizing might not be your favorite hobby, having a good understanding of your finances will relieve some stress during this time because you’ll see where you can improve and what should stay the same.
Here are a few ways to make the most of your extra time at home, while also bringing clarity to your financial situation (including where all your important information is being stored).
Consolidate Financial Clutter And Documents
This can seem like a daunting task, but think of how you’ll feel when it’s all done! Shredding old bank statements, pay stubs, and anything that has your personal information on it from more than 2 months ago is a great place to start. This decreases the risk of identity theft, frees up extra space, and allows you to find important documents much faster. The majority of banks, credit unions, and employers keep a digital file of all these statements should you need them for any reason.
Paper documents related to investments, home improvements, and taxes should be kept for seven years. Use the following link to find more details on what records to keep and for how long. (1)
Check Your Credit
Did you know that the federal government allows you to get a free credit report once per year? You can request yours at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. (2) Unlike some free credit reporting options, these are accurate records of your credit from three national credit bureaus. Whether you have great credit or you’re a little nervous to check your score, the important thing is that you are staying informed.
It’s important to take advantage of this even if you know the exact balance and interest rate from every creditor you pay. Doing all your banking, shopping, vacation bookings, and investments online are great for convenience, but having that personal information transmitted through the internet means you’re more susceptible to cyberattacks and identity theft. As a result, there is a higher chance that someone could obtain that information and start using your credit without you being aware of it.
Review Your Interest Rates And Create A Budget
If you call your creditor to see if there is anything they can do to lower your interest rates for credit card payments, many times they will. Depending on your credit, consider consolidating to a 0% interest rate credit card and transfer the balance so you can pay off the debt faster. Also, look at refinancing any vehicle loan you have to pay off the debt faster or decrease the minimum payment so you can put more toward savings for emergencies.
If you haven’t used a budget before, a few easy-to-use budgeting apps to choose from are Mint, PocketGaurd, GoodBudget (multiple users can access the same account), and YNAB or EveryDollar for zero-based budgeting. Some of these are free or have options to upgrade to a version that enables your banking to be automatically synced with the app. This way your expenses are imported into the app, allowing you to quickly assign expenses to all your budget categories without manually importing anything.
Finish Your Cleanup
Now that you are completely aware of your finances and where things are when you need them, you’ll experience added peace of mind—at the perfect time. To make sure you haven’t missed anything, allow D. Bryant Retirement Strategies to conduct a financial checkup, and we can help identify a financial goal you’d like to work toward achieving. Getting to know you and seeing the whole picture of what’s important to you is the best way to create an action plan and make it a reality. To start the conversation, call us at (402) 932-2141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darrell Bryant, CFS®, CAS® is Omaha’s Retirement Strategist. As the founder of D. Bryant Retirement Strategies, he focuses on helping individuals and couples nearing retirement do so successfully. Along with more than 30 years of experience, he received the Certified Fund Specialist (CFS®) designation and a Certified Annuity Specialist (CAS®) designation from the Institute of Business & Finance. Passionate about helping as many people as possible in his community, he hosts Retirement Strategies Radio, heard Saturday mornings at 8:00 a.m. on 1110 KFAB. He has also written articles on financial planning that have been featured on Fortune.com, FoxBusiness.com, Money.com, and in the Midland Business Journal. To learn more, visit his blog, his website, or connect with him on LinkedIn.