Feel like your personal finances are too complicated? It's time to streamline and declutter. Laura gives tips to simplify your financial life, stay organized, and know which financial records to keep and for how long.
Yes, storing sensitive information electronically means you could be hacked. However, the advantages of digital docs far outweigh the downsides, especially when you take smart precautions like password protection on your devices and external drives.
Remember that identity theft commonly occurs when thieves steal snail mail and paper containing confidential information. So, going digital can also reduce the likelihood of a thief intercepting your sensitive information.
Once you create a plan for what paper and digital documents you’ll store where, make sure your family or loved-ones know how to find important documents if you weren’t around.
5. Use Online Banking Services.
Once you’re in a routine of processing your incoming documents digitally, it’s time to focus on outgoing documents, such as your payments. I hope you’re not still buying, writing, and mailing any paper checks. Not only are they costly and time consuming to write and mail, but they can be stolen from your mailbox or at the receiving end.
Just about every large or small banking institution offers free online bill pay. You can enter any company or person and the service will send money electronically or print and mail a paper check to the payee. All you need to know is a payee’s name, mailing address, the amount you want to pay, and the date you want your payment to arrive.
For recurring bills, such as rent or a car payment, you can set up automatic payments or enter them manually every month. Many banks can request e-copies of your bills and act as a centralized hub for all your necessary payments. At a glance, you can see your pending payments and the history for each biller in your account.
If you can’t get funds directly deposited into your account, deposit paper checks remotely.
You can create customized email alerts to inform you when a bill has arrived or remind you about the due date. That’s a handy way to make sure your bills are paid on time so you eliminate late fees and boost your credit score.
Additionally, consider other transactions you can put on auto-pilot, such as transfers to savings and retirement contributions. Let technology give you a leg up so nothing falls through the cracks.
Another key banking task that you can simplify is making deposits. If you can’t get funds directly deposited into your account, deposit paper checks remotely. Most bank apps have a remote deposit feature that allows you to use a mobile device to snap a picture of the front and back of the endorsed check, and hit the deposit button. Doesn’t get any easier than that!
Be sure to never access any financial account from an open wireless network, like in a coffee shop or a library. By monitoring your account activity and setting up strong passwords that you change on a regular basis, you can reduce the likelihood of fraudulent activity.
Use a password manager, such as Roboform or LastPass, to end the vicious cycle of resetting forgotten passwords. They store and encrypt your login data and automatically fill online forms. You can try a limited number of passwords for free, but they are well worth purchasing.
6. Consolidate Financial Accounts.
Having fewer financial accounts can greatly simplify your life. Consolidating makes your money easier to monitor, cuts paperwork, and reduces the paper trail at tax time.
Paring down investing, retirement, bank, and insurance companies can also cut fees and qualify you for discounts. Most people only need one checking and one savings account. If you have 401(k) and 403(b) plans at old employers, do direct rollovers to a single IRA.
Even the investments you choose inside retirement and investing accounts can be simplified. You might put all your money in the same fund family or choose a low-cost index fund or exchange-traded fund. Also consider a target-date fund, which is a type of diversified mutual fund that automatically shifts the mix of assets as you approach retirement.
Make getting financially organized a priority right now. You’ll feel more in control of your finances, eliminate expenses, and save time—so you can spend it doing something you enjoy.
Get More Money Girl!
If you set a resolution to get out of debt this year, awesome! Now it's time to actually learn how to do it. Don't miss Laura's new online class Get Out of Debt Fast--A Proven Plan to Stay Debt-Free Forever. Enroll with an 85% discount for a limited time when you click here to learn more!
If you're ready for help managing debt, building credit, and reaching big financial goals, check out Laura's private Facebook Group, Dominate Your Dollars! Request an invitation to join this growing community of like-minded people who want to take their financial lives to the next level.
To connect on social media, you’ll find Money Girl on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Also, if you’re not already subscribed to the Money Girl podcast on Apple Podcasts or the Stitcher app, both are free and make sure that you’ll get each new weekly episode as soon as it’s published on the web. The show is also on the Spotify mobile app! Click here to sign up for the free Money Girl Newsletter!
Cloud Computing image courtesy of Shutterstock