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Posted: May 18, 2009

Spring cleaning for your finances

Now is the perfect time to take an inventory of your overall financial standing

Marti Brust

Spring is well underway, and one task that should be on everyone’s “spring cleaning” checklist is a thorough, financial review. You probably balance your checkbook or online balances, pay bills and manage accounts on a regular and timely basis. But how often do you take an inventory of your overall financial standing and plan for the future?

The following are some financial portfolio recommendations to help thoroughly clean your financial house: 

•    Review the titling and ownership of all of financial accounts. You should make certain that any accounts owned and titled in a Trust, or that may have a Payable upon Death designation, will meet desired intentions if a transfer were to take place. 

•    Review credit bureau report. You can get a free copy once every 12 months from www.annualcreditreport.com. Credit scores can be negatively impacted by late payments, multiple open lines (credit cards) and multiple credit inquiries.

•    Review the beneficiary of all insurance policies and retirement accounts. This is particularly important if there has been a recent change in marital status. A spousal waiver will be needed if the beneficiary is not the spouse.

•    Execute a will as well as a living will. If these documents already exist, they should be reviewed on a regular basis. Circumstances and viewpoints change, which can heavily impact desired allocations and intentions. These documents should be reviewed on an annual basis, even if no changes are ever made.

•    Check the interest rates that are being charged on all credit cards.  For individuals who carry balances, consider consolidating to the card with the lowest interest rate or even contemplate a Home Equity Line of Credit as the interest may be tax-deductible.

•    Utilize a charge card that offers rewards. Many of these now carry no annual fee and offer cash back in addition to the travel and merchandise rebates.

•    Take advantage of online banking and online bill pay.  It will save time and also provide a record of expenses.

•    Make the most of the Employer Match for 401(k).  If there is an opportunity to participate in a 401(k), you should at least contribute to the level that takes advantage of the full employer match.

•    Review Life Insurance. You need to make certain that existing coverage will meet the financial needs of their family if any member were to pass away, not just the primary income source for the family. Regular expenses such as childcare and house cleaning can be expensive; these will need to be considered so that savings for long-term events such as college and retirement can continue.

Also, if the only secured life insurance is provided by an employer, you may want to price other term policies. Remember employer-provided insurance may not transfer if there is a change in jobs.

•    Research long-term care insurance. You should ask their insurance provider about this coverage to ensure it offers home health care in addition to nursing home care. Life expectancy is much greater than it used to be, and as in-home and community care continue to rise in price, this is a cost of which most people need to be cognizant.

•    Review or create an investment policy statement. This is an agreement with a financial advisor that states your purpose for your investments, the time frame of the investments and the amount of risk you are willing to take with the investment. An IPS clearly states the investor’s goals and helps provide clear expectations, consistent communications and true accountability for both the advisor and the investor.

•    Conduct homework for obtaining professional services from Investment Consultants, Estate Planning Attorneys and Certified Public Accounts. Seek references from trusted friends and colleagues and stick with specialists. Professionals will be able to offer insights and guidance that will help individuals succeed in reaching their financial planning goals.

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Marti Brust is a senior vice president and wealth advisor for UMB’s Investment and Wealth Management division in Denver. Marti may be contacted via email at marti.brust@umb.com.

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