Check your free credit rating with one or more of the following organizations (each has a slightly different reporting format and may have differing information) at least once a year. By regularly reviewing the information contained in the reports, you can better protect yourself from identity theft, make sure you qualify for that home or auto loan you need, correct any errors early to prevent damage to your credit rating, and make sure the accounts/credit cards you requested be closed are indeed removed from your current rating information. You can stagger each request from the three companies, so, for example, you could check in February, June, and November for no cost.
Visit the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov to create an online account. You can then periodically review the recorded information to make sure past reported earnings are correct and also project estimated retirement benefits you can use in your financial planning analysis.
Review your cash reserves and borrowing capacity before you have a problem with a job layoff, medical emergency, or other such unexpected financial hit. It’s difficult enough to deal with the emotions and stress of these events without having to figure out how to deal with the financial implications. Why not take a few minutes to think about your options beforehand? If you need to get a line of credit or save some additional dollars for the “rainy day fund”, it’s only possible to do this while your financial situation is fairly stable. Getting prepared ahead of time gives you a lot more flexibility to act when something does happen – and the preparation approach lets you sleep better at night too !
Write down a list of important documents and where they are kept. You don’t have to prepare anything fancy – just a piece of paper showing your insurance policies, medical insurance information, the attorney’s name who prepared your will and other legal documents, where you bank, what credit cards you currently have, where you keep your financial records, etc. It will be helpful to make a copy of this and discuss it with your spouse or other family member/friend, and place a copy in a fire-proof box in your home if available. Whether you need this information yourself for financial planning or a spouse/friend needs to know in order to help you out, a half-hour of your time now will payoff “big time” at a later date.
Get organized – for tax time, for monthly bill paying, for whatever paper-related financial task you need to complete. Set aside a folder for saving tax information (charitable receipts, tax payments, investment statements, etc.) throughout the year, designate a special location or part of your desk for bill paying each month, find an inexpensive filing cabinet or box in which to place “important items” (saves hunting around the entire house and/or your car every week!), or write due dates for special projects/maintenance/expenses on a calendar in a prominent location.
Talk about your financial goals with your spouse, family members or a close friend to help make your plans seem more “real.” Cut out some magazine pictures of items/vacation spots/activities you dream about – and put them on your refrigerator. It’s easy to “live for today” and spend money accordingly. It’s a little more challenging to have specific goals and set aside some funds on a regular basis to achieve those goals, but so much more rewarding in the end.
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