Spring cleaning isn’t just for the home. Whether you’re just starting to analyze your budget, have committed to paying off debt or are looking to start investing, the first step is to make sure your finances are organized.
After all, it’s hard to make smart financial decisions if you don’t have a good system for actually managing your records and account information. Here are some steps to take to make the process easier. Once you’ve taken care of the logistics, it will be a lot easier to achieve your financial goals!
Streamline your accounts
Over the course of your life, you’ve probably opened different accounts for different reasons. If you’ve changed jobs, you may have a new 401k provider. If you’re married, your spouse’s checking account may be at a different bank than your own. Logistically, keeping track of all of these accounts can be tricky and a lack of oversight can actually end up costing you money in the long run.
For example, a late fee on an old credit card you may have forgotten about will not only cost you the fee amount, but could also harm your credit rating. Eliminating old accounts and minimizing the number of logins you have could also help prevent identity theft online.
Roll over your retirement accounts
One place where streamlining accounts is particularly relevant is with your retirement funds. For example, you may want to make sure you roll over any 401k funds from old employers into an IRA or Roth IRA. Employer plans usually charge high fees and have limited investment options so placing your money with a low-cost provider can help you save in terms of the fees that add up over the long run. Putting all of your investments in one place will also allow you to make better investment decisions since you’ll see everything in its entirety rather than allocating your assets while only concentrating on one piece of the portfolio.
Keep good records
Get organized about your accounts, investments and expenses by creating a few folders on your computer to house this information and make it easy to find everything you need in electronic form. Save important online documents as PDFs and scan in paper documents. Having done this will be especially helpful at tax time.
It can help you save money by making sure you do not miss any deductions you’re eligible for and help you avoid having to re-file because you forgot to include something the first time around. Knowing where all of your information is can also be beneficial for filling out FAFSA forms or other financial documents.