Spring Clean Your Finances: 5 Tips From Money Pros

Spring Clean Your Finances: 5 Tips From Money Pros

99672892aChase Blueprint
Spring is almost here, and those seasonal cleaning duties—sweeping the garage, clearing out the gutters, washing the windows—are probably nagging at you.

But if you're like many Americans, it's more important to focus on spring cleaning your finances this year.

Why, you ask?

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According to a nationwide survey conducted by LearnVest and Chase Blueprint®, about 50% of U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 54 regularly worry about money—and 40% feel that they lack control of their finances.

Given these eye-opening stats, we asked five experts to share their best advice for getting your finances in shape this spring—from educating yourself about money to starting the journey toward being debt-free.

Money Spring Cleaning Tip #1: Get Everyone on the Same Page

Monica Kaden, an accredited senior appraiser and principal at Fischer Barr & Wissinger, LLC, says that spring cleaning needs to start with dividing up the workload. “Typically, in a couple or a family, there's one person who handles the household finances,” she says. Her advice is to have the other spouse—and even older children—sit down with the person who handles the bills, budget, and important financial documents, so that multiple people are knowledgeable about the household's finances.

This way, family members can bounce ideas off of each other for reducing spending and finding room in the budget for more savings. Kaden suggests making a checklist of the family's finances—including the budget, bank and investment accounts, where important documents are stashed, and a balance sheet—that everyone can reference, and then figure out who will take care of each task. Even teenagers can help by managing their own checking accounts or researching college loans.

Money Spring Cleaning Tip #2: Take Inventory of Your Possessions

Getting organized is half the battle when it comes to spring cleaning. If your home was to succumb to a fire, earthquake, flood or other catastrophic event, would you be able to account for everything—including how much you paid for the big-screen TV and your favorite leather armchair—so your insurance company could properly reimburse you?

"Insurance companies try as hard as possible to pay out the least possible," Rachel Sanborn, a certified financial planner at LearnVest Planning Services, says. So it's important to keep a record of the items in your home—particularly the most expensive ones—including photos of the items and their receipts.

Some websites offer online checklists to help guide you in creating your inventory. Sanborn even found an iPhone app—Know Your Stuff—for tackling this task. Added tip: Be sure to store a copy of your final inventory in a spot that's readily accessible outside your home, like an online Google Doc.

Money Spring Cleaning Tip #3: Reduce Financial Clutter

“You have to clean up your financial past (debt), while trying to live in the present moment (managing cash flow) and planning for the future simultaneously,” says Julie Murphy Casserly, a CFP® based in Chicago. For those whose plans for financial spring cleaning include paying off debt, Casserly says that they need to first address the issues that created the debt in the first place—and that means dealing with the emotions that surround money.

“People need to find a compelling reason to change; it has to be tied to some dream or goal that’s different from their current reality,” Casserly advises. Think concrete goals, such as "I want to pay off one of my debts, so that I can save for a trip to Bora Bora" or "I want to pay off two of my debts to see my credit score increase." You can start by setting up an automatic debt payment that comes out of your account each month. If you put it on autopilot, Casserly says, you can't find another way to spend it.

Money Spring Cleaning Tip #4: Get Shredding

Mike Falco, a CPA in Pennsylvania, says that now is the time to shred any old financial documents. A good rule of thumb: Keep tax records for seven years, pay stubs and bank statements for a year, and credit card statements for at least 45 days. 

Keeping in line with Falco's “out with the old” mindset, also take a look at your beneficiary forms—which designate who will receive your assets if something happens to you—and update them, if necessary. Beneficiary forms are legal documents that will stand up against a will, so make sure that the person on those forms is the one who you'd want to have your assets.

Money Spring Cleaning Tip #5: Rethink Your Insurance

It’s easy to buy an insurance policy—or accept your company’s—and then just let it gather dust ... a spring cleaning no-no! But Sanborn says that reviewing your various insurance policies is a great way to free up money for future goals.

If you have an emergency fund—and you should!—you can consider increasing your deductible (the money you would have to pay before your insurance kicks in), which will bring down your insurance premium (the amount you pay every month). "Emergency funds are intended to cover things like deductibles," she says.

Additionally, if you have children, and you have a separate policy from your spouse, you should make sure that the kids are on the plan with the lowest premium. Beyond these tweaks, however, Sanborn recommends that you leave your insurance coverage alone: "It's better to have more coverage than you need."

 

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