Three ways to spring-clean your finances
As the days grow longer and lighter, you may feel an urge to fling open the doors and windows and clean the house from top to bottom. But if it’s too soon for balmy breezes, why not use the time to spring-clean your finances? Here are three ways to start:
1.) Scrub your credit report
Many people don’t learn their identity’s been stolen until they discover a strange loan on their credit report. Even if a wrong entry is just a mistake, it may still cost you the best deal on a loan, car insurance, apartment, or even a job. You’re entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the big three credit reporting agencies. If you order one agency’s report now, the second on the Fourth of July, and the third around Thanksgiving, you’ll able to spot problems in a timely way. To order reports, call 1-877-322-8228 toll-free, or visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
2.) Shake out outdated beneficiary names
As time goes on, your designated heirs may marry, change their names, have children, or pass away. Dig out the account documents for your IRA, company retirement plan, life insurance, annuity, or pension to see if any beneficiaries need to be updated. Changes are often easy to make with an online firm, or call your benefits provider.
3.) Polish your estate plan
A will may be all you need if your financial life is fairly simple. Do you have one? Is it up to date? Does it take into account a recent inheritance, say, or new additions to the family?
If your finances are complex enough, you’ve probably had an attorney draw up an estate plan for you. It’s a good idea to spring-clean that plan by having the attorney review and update it for family or tax-law changes. Watch out, for example, if you’re planning to pass money to your kids through a credit shelter trust funded with the current estate tax exemption amount. You’ll want to make sure fully funding the trust won’t deplete the estate, leaving too little for the surviving spouse to live on.