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Use these tips to improve your daily financial lives:
- Be sure to visit www.annualcreditreport.com every year to receive your free credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus. This is the only legitimate website where you will really get the free report without having to sign up for a credit monitoring service. Keep in mind, you will have to pay for your credit scores. Those are not included with the reports. It is important to check your credit reports regularly to monitor for any fraudulent activity and to know what potential creditors will see when deciding whether to extend you credit.
- Some credit cards will provide credit scores for free, but be aware that those scores could be significantly different than the score your car dealer or mortgage provider has.
- Nothing impacts your credit score more than paying your bills on time, all the time. Be sure to plan ahead when traveling or during holiday time.
- Create a bill paying space in your office or kitchen. Include a bin or file to hold pending bills, your checkbook (if used) or your computer, and a calculator. Think about investing in financial software, like Quicken, or using an online site like Mint.com to keep track of your spending. Online billpay through your bank will also save you money in stamps and checks and save you time since there are no checks to write.
- Each year, start a file folder where you will put all of your tax deductible receipts for that year. The file can be paper or electronic. This way, when tax time comes around, you don’t have to dig through piles of paper and endless files looking for records.
- If you have let your finances get away from you, stop burying your head in the sand, because things can only get worse if you do. There is no better time to deal with it, then right now. Make a list of where all your debts and assets stand, so you can get a clear picture and then begin working on items one at a time. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this on your own, bring in a certified daily money manager or financial advisor who will help you with this. Pretty soon you will see your credit score go up and your stress levels go down.
- Set up goals for yourself to improve your financial life. If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one. If you don’t have a retirement account, sign up for one at work or enroll in a Roth or Traditional IRA. If you have credit card debt, start paying it down. If you can only spare $50 a month, start with that. It is time to stop finding excuses and start making changes.
- Make sure that you have important documents in place, such as a will, trust, power of attorney, health care directive and anything else that might be relevant to your situation. You don’t want someone else to make important decisions for you or your family without knowing your wishes. Be sure to tell those who are named, where they can locate these documents in case of emergency.
- Be sure to update your life insurance, retirement accounts and anything else where you have named a beneficiary when there are life changes, such as the birth of a child or a divorce.
- Recognize when you are struggling or need to bring in a professional. What you will save in peace of mind will be worth the price tag.