There are many important items to keep track of in your financial picture, including investments, bills, debts, insurance, and more. Keeping it all organized may seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially if you do it step by step. Here are some helpful tips for how to get your finances in order:
1. Establish an Automated Bill-Paying System: Keeping track of due dates for bills can be challenging, especially when payments are due on different dates throughout the month. Many people are likely to have seven or more bills per month, including, utilities, internet, phone, rent, insurance, and more. To lessen the risk of making a late payment or forgetting to make the payment at all, create an automated bill-paying system. For some bills, you can go online to set up a recurring payment each month. For other bills, you may have to call your city office or another appropriate entity. Automated bill paying can be essential if you need to hand over your financial affairs to a loved one due to illness, incapacity, or demise.
2. Put all your financial documents in an easy-to-find location: If you have paper documents, you can create a financial file or binder to hold all your relevant documents. If your papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in your file at home. Make sure a loved one knows where the file or binder is stored. If you opted out of paper documents, gather all your digital financial documents as well. You might want to use a hard drive that can be kept in a safe or lockbox. If you have some digital documents and some on paper, consider scanning your paper documents to keep everything in one place. Afterwards, you can shred the paper documents for less storage and better security. You can use this handy Rutgers Digital Assets Inventory Worksheet to keep track of all your digital resources.
3. Deal with Your Debt: You can start by making a list of all the people or institutions you owe money to. It’s a good idea to look through your credit report to find any credit card debts or other outstanding payments. You can receive one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year. If you see something on your credit report that is incorrect, you can dispute those matters with the credit bureau or directly with the lender or creditor involved. If you spot something that looks suspicious or fraudulent, report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Once you’ve identified your debts, consider a plan for paying them. You can start with the smallest loan and work your way up or focus on the loan with the highest interest rate first.
4. Review Your Insurance Policies: Take the time now to review your various insurance policies and get competitive quotes from other companies. You want to ensure that you have the right amount of coverage without overpaying. You should also review your policies after major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, or retirement. Insurance policies may lapse or require periodic renewal. Before automatically renewing your policy, get a few free quotes from other companies to see if you can find a better policy elsewhere.
5. Preplan Your Funeral Arrangements: While there’s no cost to preplan a funeral, some people decide to pre-pay once they have decided on their arrangements. Pre-payment eliminates the stress of coming up with the funds during a difficult time and eliminates overspending by keeping family from purchasing unnecessary additions. In some cases, prepayment can lock in prices for merchandise or services that will most likely be more expensive in the future. And prepaying a funeral can be a good way of spending down assets in order to qualify for Medicaid. When you pre-pay the funeral home, the funds will be held in trust. This allows the purchaser to transfer the contract to any other funeral home.
6. Review Your Finances Regularly: Plan a recurring date to conduct a financial check-in to help you stay organized. This can be on a certain day of the month or once every few months. To avoid forgetting to do these check-ins, put them in your personal planner or set reminders in your phone. During your financial review, go through each portion of your financial portfolio, such as, your investments, progress towards financial goals, your budget, automatic payments, and questions for your financial advisor.
Getting your finances in order can take some time, but by setting up automatic bill-pay, gathering financial records, handling your debts, prepaying funeral expenses, reviewing your insurance policies, and regular financial check-ins, you’ll be well on your way to taking control of your financial health.