By Brittany Goodwillie, CFP®
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the flowers are blooming. Spring has arrived! It’s that time of the year where all of your clutter seems to have multiplied and you’re ready to grab a duster and get busy. As you are rummaging through your kitchen, you may find the pot you forgot you had, and as you finally organize your closet, you may find that shirt you thought you lost forever. In addition to our homes, our finances could use some spring cleaning as well. In between all of your dusting and organizing, take the time to follow these five tips.
REVIEW YOUR EXPENSES
Did you forget to cancel an old gym membership? Are you paying a monthly fee for a service you haven’t used all year or a magazine you never read? Have you taken the time to get a new car insurance quote? Are you paying too much for your life insurance? Believe it or not, life insurance premiums don’t always increase as you age. Take the time this spring to look over your bank account and credit card statements and make sure you aren’t paying for something that you aren’t using. You never know what you might find and how much you may save!
CHECK YOUR BANK ACCOUNT AND CREDIT CARD FEES
While reviewing your actual expenses, make sure that the bank you are using doesn’t have any hidden fees or newly added fees you didn’t know about. Sometimes a change in balance or ending direct deposit can trigger monthly fees. Also, check how much interest your bank account is paying you. There are several online savings accounts that offer 1.00% interest or higher. Online savings account providers save money since they don't have the same expenses as traditional banks and pass on the savings to customers through higher interest rates. Review your credit card fees and rewards, and see if a different card may make more sense for you.
BE SURE YOU ARE TAKING FULL ADVANTAGE OF YOUR EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
Are you taking full advantage of your employer's retirement plan options? Are you contributing enough to maximize any employer matches? Do you know if your employer offers a Roth 401(k) plan and if it may be best for you? Check if your employer offers any incentives you may not know about, such as prepaid legal services, or employee stock programs. Your employer may even offer employee discounts for fun events in your area.
ORGANIZE AND CONSOLIDATE YOUR RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS
Do you have a clear picture of all of your savings? Do you have any old retirement accounts you should consolidate? You would be surprised how many clients I’ve had that had an old 401(k) they completely forgot about or a stock account they inherited years ago that they haven’t touched. It’s important to diversify your investment portfolio and it may be beneficial to consolidate your accounts and make sure they are being properly managed.
UPDATE YOUR BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS AND CONTACT INFORMATION
Many events warrant an update of your beneficiary designations. Changing jobs, getting married, and having a child are just some events that may trigger the need for a beneficiary update. Beneficiary designations specify who will receive your funds when you pass away. Often, they are immediately effective at death, which means that the assets will avoid probate, which is a legal process that takes place after a person’s death. That makes it especially important to be sure your beneficiary designations meet your wishes. It’s also important to make sure your contact information is up to date everywhere you hold an account.