Lose a few pounds. Exercise more. Quit smoking. Clean out the garage. Compared to these common but often difficult-to-keep New Year’s resolutions, putting your finances in order is much simpler.
All it takes is a little organization and it’s a great way to start the New Year.
Organizing your personal financial records and assets ensures that important information is easily accessible when your financial life changes—for example, when you move, marry, apply for a mortgage or other loan, or in case of a tax audit. In addition, organizing ensures continuity in your personal and business affairs in the event of your being incapacitated by serious illness or injury, or at your death.
A simple way to begin is to record in one place the location and numbers of safe deposit boxes and bank accounts and the whereabouts of your cancelled checks, statements, and credit card numbers and issuing company information.
Another important part of this financial inventory is a consolidated record of pertinent information for stock certificates, bonds, notes, bills, mutual funds, annuities and other investments.
In addition, the inventory should include any money you expect from an employer, insurance companies, Social Security and other sources. Your estate might be entitled to benefits from your employer such as life insurance, profit sharing, accident insurance settlements or a pension plan.
Making an inventory of property and vehicles is another important step. Among other things, you will want to record the initial buying price of your residence(s) as well as information on home improvements, plus the location of legal documents including the statement of closing, title insurance, deed and land survey.
Information on home mortgages and other outstanding loans should be organized, along with information on life, automobile, health and homeowner’s insurance.
When you complete this snapshot inventory of your current financial condition, it’s time to look forward.
Personal financial management planning should include a careful review of investment strategies following this simple checklist.
• Review financial goals because they change with time, such as when children reach college age or retirement nears.
• Develop a financial plan with the advice of your investment bank advisors, including a retirement strategy, or review existing plans in view of life changes.
• Evaluate your 401(k) or IRA allocations.
• Review your investment asset allocation with your financial advisor.
• Take advantage of dollar-cost-averaging by making regular investments.
• Keep debt in check, especially credit cards.
• Make sure you are properly insured, including an evaluation of homeowner’s and long-term care insurance.
• Draw up a will and comprehensive estate plan and a business succession plan, if necessary, or review existing plans.
• Evaluate your investment gains and losses for the year just ended to maximize loss versus gain for tax purposes.
• Review with your tax advisor year-end income tax strategies including investment moves that could help reduce your federal income tax bill.
While you may not get to implement all of these tactics immediately because some take research and planning, these valuable procedures and useful financial tools can bring security and satisfaction, saving time and money in the future.
Now is a good time to begin. Happy New Year!
Donna L. Puff is manager of KeyBank’s North Broadway Branch in Tarrytown. She can be reached at 914-524-4981 or Donna_L_Puff@KeyBank.com.