Spring is here! Time to get your finances in shipshape condition. Here are five ideas to get you started.
- Check your credit reports.
While you’re reviewing your expenses and debts in order to see how you are faring in terms of staying within your personal budget, make sure that there aren’t any expenses or debts on your credit report that aren’t yours.
It’s free to check your credit reports once a year to ensure no one has used your name or identity to make unauthorized purchases. Here is what to do: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports
- Consider banking / credit card changes.
If you find yourself with open accounts at multiple banks, it may be time to consolidate, depending on your total balance/s. (FDIC insures each account up to $250,000.) By consolidating, you may be in a better position to negotiate for lower fees and better interest rates.
You may find that you want to move your banking life online in order to reduce clutter and find a bank paying the highest rates / charging no fees. But be sure to download and back up your statements (and make backups of the backups) since most banks only keep them around for 12-18 months.
While you’re taking stock of your banking situation, take a look at your credit cards and assess whether or not you’re getting the best deals. It’s easy to do a little online investigating about cards have the best cash back benefits. (But make sure you pay off the balances monthly.)
- Home maintenance to save money in the long run.
Your home is often one of your bigger assets, so consider putting these important home maintenance projects on your financial to-do list:
- Repair any roof leaks the minute you spot them to help prevent mold, structural damage and loss of personal property. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean and debris-free every year.
- Water on the ground can cause even more expensive problems. Grading and drainage issues need to be dealt with lest they damage your home’s foundation or cause flooding, often not covered by insurance.
- Deal with plumbing leaks immediately. Inspect and caulk around showers and tubs as well as windows and doors on a regular basis. Caulk is cheap, but water damage is very expensive.
- Just like you remove lint from your dryer vent with each load of laundry, you should change your HVAC filter monthly to prevent system problems as well as reduce monthly electric bills.
- Take immediate measures to eliminate pests like termites, roaches, ants or rodents if they take up residence. Waiting can only lead to more damage.
- Tax changes / tax record storage.
Very importantly this year, get up to speed on the new tax changes and how they might affect you by meeting with your financial advisor and tax specialist. The two disciplines often have different perspectives and you can often benefit by including both of them in your discussions. Make sure you review your retirement tax distribution plan in terms of RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) which start at age 72, because there may be ways to mitigate income taxes for the long term if you start early.
In terms of tax document storage, Kiplinger recommends keeping your tax returns indefinitely, and supporting documentation for seven years. If you decide to clean out old tax supporting documents, make sure to shred them to reduce the possibility of identity theft.
- Beneficiary review: Insurance policy / retirement accounts / estate plans.
You may not realize that the beneficiaries you have listed on your insurance policies and retirement accounts take precedence over wills and trusts. It’s really important to keep all of your documents, including your estate documents, up to date at all times. Life changes, and so does your family. You probably don’t want an ex-spouse receiving your 401(k) money if you pass.
If you have a lot of assets and a very large estate, you may want to meet with your financial advisor and estate attorney since the new, higher estate tax exclusion sunsets in 2026 (or may be changed sooner by Congress under the new Biden Administration.)
If you want to discuss any of these ideas, or have questions about your financial or retirement plan, please don’t hesitate to contact us. You can reach Bulwark Capital Management at 253.509.0395.