Spring Clean Your Finances in 6 Days - Part 2

by Stacy Levin 8. May 2013

Clean Dollars

Welcome back to the 6 Day Spring Clean Your Finances Challenge! In case you missed part 1, click here. Otherwise, we're on to day 3...

Day 3: Take a Look at Your Retirement Plan

Step 1: Do you have a retirement plan? If so, move on to step 2. If not, start one…right now! Never underestimate the power of compound interest. You can start by looking into retirement plans that your employer offers. There are often incentives associated with these accounts that make these investments worth your while. However, when you are first setting everything up, it’s smart to meet with a financial consultant. There are many things to take into consideration when saving for retirement and many factors that go into how much you should be putting away. A financial consultant can do all the hard work for you and talk you through the process of getting your account(s) set up.

Step 2: So you have a plan in place – great! Now when was the last time you reviewed your plan? Since the hard part is setting up your retirement plan, many people think that once this is done, they can sit back and relax for the next 40 years. Not true! It’s important to review your plan periodically to make sure you are making good progress, everything is still on track, and your plan accounts for any major life changes you have made. Our Retirement Planner Calculator is a good place to start to see if your plan is still a good one.

Day 4: Find Ways to Save Money

Today you will “audit” yourself to see what you are unwisely spending money on. Do you have all of the premium movie channels but rarely use them? Maybe you would be better off getting rid of the channels and instead subscribing to Netflix or taking advantage of Red Box or movies on demand. Or maybe you do subscribe to Netflix but never use it – time to say goodbye! The same goes for magazine and online subscriptions. It’s easy to continue subscribing to a product or service for $10 a month and seems not worth the trouble to get rid of it…but if you have 5 of these unused subscriptions, that’s $50 a month you could save by getting rid of everything.

Also, when was the last time you shopped around for insurance (car, home, health, etc.)? You may have done your research and gotten several quotes initially, but if it’s been awhile, things have probably changed and there’s a good chance you can lower your premiums.

Stay tuned for the 3rd and final part to the Spring Clean Your Finances Challenge!

Spring Clean Your Finances in 6 Days - Part 1

by Stacy Levin 6. May 2013

Clean Up Your Finances

'Tis the season of spring cleaning – my favorite time of year! What? You disagree? Well how about right AFTER spring cleaning? Coming home to a freshly cleaned house is a wonderful way to come home. It leaves you feeling relaxed and stress-free…that is, until you start to think about other areas of your life causing you stress.

Solution: Spring clean those other areas of your life as well! Organize your space at work, clean out your email inbox and…here’s the doozy: clean up your finances! I know cleaning up your finances may sound like a daunting task, but if you tackle it the right way you can get it done in no time! Well, not quite “no time,” but how does 6 days sound?

I bring you the 6 Day Spring Clean Your Finances CHALLENGE!

Day 1: Consolidate Your Accounts

Especially if you have moved around a lot in recent years, you may have checking and savings accounts that you no longer use. While it’s easy to keep unused accounts open, you may be accruing fees and you are definitely not putting those funds to good use. Even if you only have a small amount in these accounts, it’s time to close those accounts! If you have moved and do not have a branch near you, you can generally request that your account be closed in writing. Contact the financial institution to find out exactly what information they require.

Additionally, if you have changed jobs you may have an inactive 401(k). It’s time to roll that into an IRA! You will first have to open said IRA so that you actually have an account to roll your funds into. Then contact the company that runs your old 401(k) and ask them to transfer the funds. In some cases, it might be best to leave your funds where they are. Consider talking to a financial consultant who can talk you through the process and give you tips on managing your retirement fund.

Day 2: Get Organized

Organization...that dreaded word. The good news is that since you have just consolidated your funds into fewer accounts, you have less to organize! If you have a giant stack of “important” papers somewhere in your house, it’s time to tackle them! Go through everything and figure out what you need to keep and what you should throw away or shred.

If you have a filing system in place, your work today will be a little bit easier, but you should still go through everything and get rid of things you no longer need. If you don’t have a filing system…today you must figure one out!

Organization Day is not a fun day for many people. To make it easier in the future, switch to electronic documents whenever possible. Enroll all of your accounts in Online Banking with electronic bank statements and Bill Pay. This way, all of your statements and bills will still be filed, but instead of ending up in a messy stack on your table, they will be organized for you in a secure electronic format!

Ready for Day 3? Click Here.

 

Things To Do Before You Leave the Country

by Wade Barnes 1. May 2013

Travel Abroad

Whether you travel for business or for pleasure, whether it’s your first time or you’re a professional, it’s helpful to have a checklist of things to do before you leave the country. Some things are easy to overlook and can make or break your experience while abroad. 

Planning

Like most things in life, planning is the most important step to making your trip a success:

Contact Banks/Credit Card Providers: Many banks will detect foreign transactions as fraudulent and will block transactions initiated abroad unless they were notified in advance. It’s good to travel with multiple methods of payment like bank cards, credit cards, and cash.

Email Travel Documents: Email documents including your travel itinerary, flight information, and hotel information including all important phone numbers both to you and a friend or family member at home. This way, if you lose the documents or someone needs to contact you, all pertinent information is easily accessible.

Copy the Contents of Your Wallet and Your Passport: Copy the front and back of everything in your wallet. Keep one copy at home and one in the hotel safe or other secure location while traveling. Having copies allows for quick cancelation and/or replacement if needed. While you can’t travel with a copy of your passport, having a copy will help get it replaced quicker if needed.

Cell Phone / Skype: If you plan to use your cell phone, be sure to talk with your provider about international plans to save expensive roaming charges while abroad. Consider opening and using a Skype account to communicate while abroad as this is a free internet service that allows you to video conference with anyone in the world.

Consider Power: Be sure to know both the plug and voltage differences where you plan to travel. Simply having a plug converter might not be enough if the voltage is different and your device doesn’t support multiple voltages. I learned this first hand and it isn’t pretty.

Stop Mail/Newspaper: Be sure to stop your mail/newspaper delivery.

Notify the State Department: Register with the State Department so they’ll know your whereabouts. While we don’t want to consider an emergency abroad, it’s better to be prepared and ensure they know where you are and for you to know where an embassy is.

Pick Up Travel Books: Even if you don’t have time to read them before you leave, read them on the plane to get a good idea of things to do, things to avoid, and ways to make the most of your trip.

Packing

While packing is fairly straightforward and doesn’t vary much from traveling domestically, there are some things you should consider when traveling abroad:

Power Convertor: Now that you know the power and plug configuration, be sure to pack the right device to power your electronics.

Carryon Luggage: Airlines are not perfect and luggage goes missing sometimes. If it does, you’ll want an extra set of clothes and important medications in your carryon to hold you over.

Medicine: Be sure to not only pack your medication but also bring an extra prescription and be sure you scope out local pharmacies at your travel destination just in case.

Antacid: Even if you don’t typically have digestion issues, when eating local cuisine, foods might not always sit well. You’d rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it!

Traveling

You've planned, you’ve packed and it’s time to enjoy your trip. When traveling abroad here are some things to keep in mind:

Safety/Security: No matter where you’re traveling, you can’t be cautious enough, but when abroad, pay particular attention to your surroundings and travel in groups if possible. Keep your possessions held tightly and out of sight. Pick-pocketers thrive on unsuspecting, unaware tourists.

Access to Money: Most places accept credit cards and this is always a safe option. When exchanging currency, be sure to know the current exchange rate as not to get ripped off at a currency exchange center. Another solution is to use your ATM card. While you may pay ATM fees, you’ll likely save as the exchange rate will be calculated at the nightly inter-bank rate, which can be more advantageous than at currency exchange centers.

Internet Banking: It never fails; you forgot to pay a bill or need to transfer money. Don’t sweat; we’ve got you covered with our robust online banking suite.

Now it's time to enjoy your trip. Don’t hold back, enjoy the fine wine, great cuisine, memorable sights, and experiences that will last a lifetime.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

Spring Break Travel Tips

Traveling Tips: Keep the Costs Low and the Fun Level High

Managing Your Money in Retirement

 



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