By Lila Quintiliani, AFC®
Spring is almost here. Here are 5 easy tips to get your financial house in order.
- Get rid of old paperwork. Nowadays there’s no need to keep filing cabinets full of old papers. This article from Consumer Reports tells you how long you should be keeping your old receipts, pay stubs, and tax paperwork. Keep key documents in one place, as suggested by FEMA. Shred everything you don’t need. Don’t have a personal shredder? Check and see if your local police department has free shredding dates. While you’re at it, go paperless whenever possible and have your statements sent to you electronically. Not only will you save a few trees, you’ll prevent possible identity theft. If you pay your bills electronically, you’ll also save on postage.
- Check your credit report. Every consumer can check their credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com. But did you know that you can get one free report from each credit bureau (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax)? That means you can get a total of THREE free reports per year! One strategy is to space them out over the year, so that you always have a clear picture of your credit situation. Curious about your credit score? Your personal financial manager at your local installation can help you get your score for free and can also help you interpret it and suggest strategies for improvement.
- Assess your withholding. Did you get a huge tax refund? Then you just gave Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. Did you have to pay a lot in taxes this year (including a penalty)? Then you under-withheld. Experts suggest that you should periodically check your W4, your Withholding Allowance Certificate, especially if you have had a life change like a marriage or the birth of a child. In fact, with all the new tax laws, everyone should look over their W4. Service members can access theirs at myPay.
- Look over your earnings record. Sure, you’re years away from retirement, but have you ever glanced at your earnings record at Socialsecurity.gov? The Social Security Administration has cut down on the statements that it mails out, so it’s worthwhile to log in at least once a year to make sure that employers have correctly reported your earnings. Underreporting and other errors could mean less money for you when you do retire. Sign up and you’ll also have access to your Social Security statement, which shows an estimated retirement benefit.
- Reevaluate your expenses. Now is a great time to take a fresh look at your recurring expenses. Did your cell phone bill go up in January? Do you have subscriptions that have been auto renewing because you haven’t had a chance to cancel them? Call your service providers to see if you are getting the best deal out there, and if you aren’t, see if you are eligible to switch. For instance, our cable/internet package recently went up over $50 per month. I contacted our provider and was able to get a different bundle – with higher speed internet – at a lower price.