Rainy day showers may be slowly traversing their way across the March and April months, but the bright, bold clothing in store windows, sky-high wedges creeping back out onto department store floors and laquered-red Ferragamo bags that seem impermiable to any reccesionary pressure to just. go. on sale. (fingers crossed), it can only mean one thing: Spring is finally here! But before you dust off all those fabulous dresses and skirts hiding in the back of your closet, it may be time to dust off your finances first.
This spring, if your closets are more organized than your finances, view it as a sign that it’s time to take action. Women & Co. founder Lisa Caputo and president Linda Descano recently offered some divine tips to help spruce up your finances and put together an action plan toward better financial health. Check these out before heading into the nearest mall armed with your cash and/or cards to kick off your Spring shopping spree:
- Gather your financial records. Pull together your financial statements (e.g., bank, credit card, brokerage), your insurance and legal documents (e.g., life insurance, will, healthcare proxy), and your personal records (e.g., birth certificate, marriage/divorce certificate, property deed). Create a filing system and put a copy of your important papers either in a fireproof box at home, a bank safe deposit box, and/or with a trusted lawyer, relative, or friend.
- Get the big picture. Use your financial statements to calculate your net worth, which will tell you the difference between what you own (assets) and what you owe (liabilities). Once you have a picture of your overall net worth, determine your cash flow, which will help you identify areas where you could be saving and/or investing more.
- Set financial goals. Short-term goals are those you’d like to accomplish within one year (e.g., pay off credit cards); mid-term goals, within 5 years (e.g., make down payment on a new home); and long-term goals, 5 years or more (e.g., save for retirement). Write these down to help you clarify and prioritize your financial goals.
- Allocate your money. Once you know your financial goals, allocate your money accordingly. This will help you determine how realistic your financial goals are, how long it may take to meet them, and what adjustments you may need to make now to achieve your goals in your desired time frame. Review expenses monthly and evaluate your progress regularly.
- Check your financial reputation. Your credit score is a picture of your financial health in the eyes of lenders. Check your credit reports as they could have errors or discrepancies that could limit your access to credit. Resolve any errors and if you have any over-due payments, work towards paying them down as soon as you can. The three organizations that issue the most commonly referred to credit reports are: Equifax (www.equifax.com), TransUnion (www.transunion.com) and Experian (www.experian.com).
- Protect yourself. If you don’t have a will, living will, or health care proxy, speak to an attorney to help ensure that your assets are handled according to your wishes. Dealing with these issues today can help you and your loved ones breathe easier in the future.
- Stay informed and engaged. Periodically review your goals and objectives at least once a year, as they will likely shift over time as life circumstances change.
Hope these tips help!