"A well-informed mind is the best security against the contagion of folly and of vice. The vacant mind is ever on the watch for relief, and ready to plunge into error, to escape from the languor of idleness." Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, 1764
For those of you who have read this blog for a while, you may recognize this post from last year. I’ve updated it for 2013. But guess what? Nothing has changed in the past year that changes any of the content or advice in this post. This post could have even been written 20 years ago and it would still provide good solid information. Even if you read this information last year, it's a good idea to review it and see if you're really ready for 2013.
Here’s what I’m not giving you: a list of financial resolutions to set for yourself. Rather, I am offering you a checklist to help you organize your life—financially—and get 2013 off to a good, sound start.
As I mentioned in a recent article, it makes no sense to make piecemeal decisions about individual aspects in your financial life, if you do not have the bigger picture in mind. And I’m talking about more than knowing how much money you have in the bank or how much you have saved for retirement. I’m talking about having a good handle on all the financial streams and impacts in your life: taxes, savings, insurance policies, collectibles, wills, investments, you name it. Making any decision that deals with one aspect of your financial life will undoubtedly impact another.
Think coordination and integration! It is virtually impossible to make sound financial decisions when your financial information is disorganized and/or not accessible. The first step is to gather all your financial information into one place for easy access and review. I suggest, at minimum, a plastic box designed for holding files—available at many stores.
My Financial Checklist
Collect the most recent copy for each of the following items:
Checking and/or savings account statements
Checking and/or savings account statements for your minor children
Federal and State tax returns (for at least the past 5 years)
Property tax statement
Mortgage statement if you’re a homeowner/Lease agreement if renting
Stocks and/or mutual funds or other investment statements (non-retirement)
Real estate documents
Name and contact information for your attorney
Name and contact information for your accountant
Will, directives, power of attorney, trust
After you’re finished reading this list, cut it out and stick it in a prominent location—the refrigerator is always a good spot—where you’ll see it every day! And as you complete each task on your financial checklist, put the information in your file box, check it off and know that you’re one step closer to gaining greater control over your financial life and making the most of your hard-earned money.
If you have questions about any of the items in the list, send me an email or give me a call. It’s highly unlikely that you’d have every single one of these documents. If you’ve already taken this step and are wondering what to do next, call me.
Wealth building begins by protecting your money from being transferred unnecessarily to the government, financial institutions and corporations. But you must first be aware of what you have and who’s getting it.