By Jonathan S. Kuttin
When life gets busy, it’s easy to become more passive about managing your bank accounts and credit cards by letting receipts, bills and statements pile up. Even if you regularly keep up with your finances, it can be beneficial to take a fresh look at them. Simplify your financial life with these three strategies:
Go paperless. It’s easier than ever to access financial documents online. Going paperless will not only make your life more efficient and clutter-free, it’s also environmentally friendly.
A good place to start is by requesting electronic statements and opting out of printed ones from the companies who send you regular bills. Consider going paperless with your bank, credit card companies, cell phone and cable providers or your electric company. You’ll then receive an email when your statement or bill is ready each month. This gives you the option to download and store your statements electronically and also to print and file if needed.
If you’re not already enrolled in direct deposit with your employer, make sure to get this set up. It saves a trip to the bank on payday and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labors sooner. While you’re at it, go ahead and request electronic receipts at the store when they’re offered, in lieu of stuffing them in your pockets or purse.
Consolidate where you can. There are several corners of your financial life that can be simplified through consolidation. Retirement accounts are one of those areas. If you’ve worked for several employers during the course of your career, you’ve probably acquired a few retirement accounts along the way. Accumulated assets left in a former employer’s retirement account are still yours, but they sometimes offer less investment flexibility.
If you like the idea of having fewer accounts to keep track of, or if you prefer to actively manage your retirement dollars, consider consolidating stray 401(k) and IRA dollars by rolling them into a centralized retirement account. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to rollovers, so it’s important to weigh all your options carefully. Consider a direct rollover, as withholding tax and tax penalties may apply for cash withdrawals.
Credit cards and debt are two other areas where consolidation may be wise. Is it time to chop up the card that carries a hefty annual fee? Are you carrying a credit card balance that is snowballing due to high interest rates? It may be financially advantageous to pay off the cards with the highest interest rates and either close the account or put it away for emergency-use only. It’s a relief to have fewer cards to manage, along with a plan for extinguishing debt.
Turn to the professionals. As you sort through your financial choices, enlist the right team of professionals to assist you. Helpful professionals may include a tax advisor or accountant, who can provide guidance on how to put you in the best tax situation, and a lawyer who specializes in estate planning. Also, consider consulting a financial advisor who can help you streamline your financial life and accelerate your financial goals by recommending specific strategies based on your individual situation. Each of these professionals can share their expertise with you and help you eliminate unnecessary financial clutter.
Jonathan S. Kuttin is a Private Wealth Advisor with Kuttin-Metis Wealth Management, a private advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Melville. He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 19 years.