Simplify Your Financial Life
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
Do you have time to manage your money? Most of us would answer, “yes, but….” We might mention that we are working, taking care of family, running errands, etc. We lead very busy lives and there may be little time left for the everyday financial management tasks. However, we know we cannot afford to ignore our money!!
Online banking helps you stay up to date on your accounts. Photo Credits: Elaine Courtney, Okaloosa County
Good organizational skills can help you. According to Dr. Barbara O’Neill, (CFP® Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management, Rutgers Cooperative Extension), “Organizational skills are essential to getting everything done in a limited amount of time.” To simplify your financial life, try the following tips from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC):
Use Direct Deposit - Arrange to have regularly recurring income (e.g., paycheck, Social Security, and pension benefits) automatically deposited into a checking or savings account. Direct deposit is safer and more convenient than having a paper check mailed to you and then having to take it to a bank or credit union to deposit it. It gives you access to your money sooner and may help you avoid bank fees. Beginning in March 2013, the U.S. government will only issue Social Security and other federal benefit payments electronically.
Automate Recurring Bills - Many merchants, including car loan providers, insurance companies, and utilities, allow their customers to pay regularly recurring bills with an automatic payment. The money needed to pay a bill can be withdrawn automatically from a checking account or charged to a credit card. If bills are charged to a credit card, pay the balance in full by the due date to avoid interest charges.
Explore Online Banking - Whether you use online banking to actually pay bills or not, electronic access to your accounts offers a number of benefits. For example, you can review deposits and withdrawals, keep track of your balance, print off a copy of a cancelled check to document an expense, and transfer funds between accounts (e.g., from checking to savings). You’ll also be able to quickly identify any evidence of identity theft.
Make Saving and Investing Automatic - Put saving and investment deposits on autopilot. For example, sign up to have a portion of each paycheck deposited into a savings account. If you invest in stocks and/or mutual funds, sign up for an automatic investment plan where you can arrange to deposit a certain amount on a certain date (e.g., $50 on the 15th of each month). By investing automatically, you’ll be following a strategy called dollar-cost averaging, which can result in a higher return over time than trying to time the market.
Consider Consolidating Accounts - Too many accounts make it harder for you to adequately monitor your money, and you may pay more account fees. If you have a number of accounts spread across multiple financial institutions, consider “de-cluttering” by consolidating them. You’ll reduce mail (e.g., bank statements and 1099 forms at tax time), lower account management fees, and perhaps get better rates of return.
By spending a small amount of time organizing and simplifying your financial life, you can save many hours and, in some cases, money, too! Set aside an hour next week to get things started!