For Easier Financial Management, Organize and Streamline
Have you ever spent hours, even days, sorting through your belongings in preparation for a move? If so, you probably can attest to what a chore it was — and how much you dreaded the prospect of having to do it. Yet when all was said and done, the move was likely much easier because you got things organized ahead of time.
Taking steps toward organizing and streamlining your finances can have similar benefits.
To get started, determine your short-term financial goals. Do you want to purchase a home in five years? Are your kids heading off to college soon? Is buying a car a top priority next year? Next, think about long-term goals, such as saving for retirement and, if your children are young, college expenses. Estimate how much money you’ll need to meet each of these goals.
Once you know your goals, look at your current monthly net income and set up a budget. Creating a budget allows you to see exactly where your money goes and determine where you can scale back. After making cuts, you can redirect that money toward your financial goals.
Your employer may sponsor a 401(k) or similar retirement savings plan that allows you to have a percentage of your pay automatically set aside in a plan account and invested for you in the investments you’ve selected from the plan’s menu. Participating in a retirement savings plan is a convenient way to save and invest for your future retirement. To help employees build their savings, many retirement savings plans offer an employer match and some plans have an auto increase feature for employees who want to automatically increase their contribution percentage over time. Many financial firms also have arrangements that allow investors to automatically invest a specific amount of money in mutual funds* or other investments on a regular basis.
If you worked for more than one employer during your career, you may have multiple employer-based retirement accounts. When you add in any personal investments or individual retirement accounts (IRAs) you have, monitoring your investments can be overwhelming. In this situation, you might want to consider consolidating your holdings at fewer financial institutions so that it will be easier to keep track of your portfolio and make changes when needed. For example, you may be able to roll balances from former employers’ plans into your current employer’s plan or into an IRA. Before you take any action, however, be sure to consult a tax or financial professional. You’ll want to fully understand the relevant tax rules and potential tax consequences as well as any fees or charges that may be involved.
Paying bills electronically can reduce paperwork and help avoid late payments. For recurring bills — mortgage, utilities, car payments, etc. — consider arranging for automatic payments. Many companies allow customers to pay recurring bills automatically with their checking account or credit card. Or you can use your bank or credit union’s online bill payment service.
A disorganized estate can be more difficult and time consuming to settle. Keeping your will and beneficiary designations up to date will simplify the process. And to help ensure that your loved ones will be able to find your important financial paperwork when needed, such as deeds, insurance policies, and tax return copies, it may make sense to store the documents in a fireproof filing cabinet or metal box.
The financial world is complex, but taking a little time to organize and streamline can make managing your personal finances much simpler. For assistance, consult a financial professional.
* You should consider a fund’s investment objectives, charges, expenses, and risks carefully before you invest. The fund’s prospectus, which can be obtained from your financial representative, contains this and other information about the fund. Read the prospectus carefully before you invest or send money. Shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.
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The information in the Financial Resource Center is provided for educational purposes only. The Financial
Resource Center is not financial or investment advice. The Financial Resource Center may not
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