Do you ever feel overwhelmed by a number of things in your home? Many of us have accumulated “stuff” over the years that clutters up our homes and complicates our decisions. In recent years, Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” zoomed to the top of bestseller lists.
At WCFCU, we realized we could take the principles from Kondo’s book and apply them to cleaning up the financial clutter we can accumulate over time. Here’s where to start:
1. Tackle a category at a time.
Kondo advises to start cleaning out by gathering and sifting through things that are in the same category—clothes, say, or books—no matter where they’re located. By the same token, gather the paperwork on all your accounts that fall into a given category, such as loans or credit cards, non-retirement savings or investments, or insurance policies. Review one category at a time.
2. Respect the accounts you’ve acquired.
Try to remember why you opened each one. The equity line: that was to build the sunroom. The savings account across town: you used that for funds to replace the car. Acknowledge your good reasons for owning each account.
3. Nostalgia is not your friend.
Consider the accounts in each category thoughtfully, giving each one your full attention. Should any of them be closed or consolidated? The high-balance checking account that suited you as a striving young executive may be an expensive leftover now that you’ve retired. Maybe your 401(k) at a former employer should be rolled into your IRA? As much as you loved your late father, the investments he bequeathed aren’t doing very well—but he’d have been okay (wouldn’t he?) with selling them to fund college savings accounts for his grandkids.
4. Purging feels so good.
Give yourself permission to let go of accounts that don’t have a good reason for existence. You’ll feel relief as you simplify your financial life.
5. Organize neatly.
Just as your remaining clothes will be easier to access if neatly folded or hung, statements and other important documents for your remaining financial accounts should be gathered and stored someplace like a file drawer, where you can locate them quickly.
6. Apply a system to describe each account.
Buy some inexpensive manila file folders, one for each account. On the front cover, write the account name (or your nickname for it, like “Our Mortgage”), the account number, when it was opened, whose names are on it, and an account contact name and/or phone number. Put all the vital account docs in it. Or, to declutter your home and finances simultaneously, create a similar system digitally. Regardless of the method you choose, be sure to secure your files!
7. Fall in love with your finances.
Looking at your simplified, better organized financial life should make you feel less stressed, more relaxed, and more positive about the future.
8. Rediscover yourself.
After trimming away the financial “clutter” that wasn’t useful or helpful, you’ll have a better grasp of what’s really important to you. Decision-making will become easier: where to put savings, where to find funds for summer camp, whether you need additional life insurance. You may still need to prune away a nonperforming account now and then, but it shouldn’t be difficult now that you know the technique.
Marie Kondo suggests that your belongings will feel happier knowing that they suit you and that you truly respect and value them. We’re not sure whether your decluttered accounts will also feel happier. But we have every confidence that you will.