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Spring Clean Your Finances

This spring, it’s not just the rugs and windows that need a good polish and shine. Your finances could use some spring cleaning, too. These seven strategies will help you organize your finances.

Organize paperwork

If there is a shoebox under the bed stuffed with old receipts, credit card bills and bank statements, it’s time to clear the clutter — organizing your finances means organizing your paperwork. You’ll need to keep tax returns and all paperwork to prove deductions for seven years; after that, it’s safe to shred. Invest in a filing cabinet and label all of the files or scan documents and store them virtually — just remember to back up the files!

Protect important documents

Certain documents are too important to be stored in a file cabinet. Valuable original paperwork such as property deeds, stock and bond certificates, insurance policies, marriage certificates and other important documents should be stored in a safe deposit box.

Automate payments

A 2017 survey found that one in five Americans don’t pay their bills on time. Scheduling automatic payments for recurring bills, like mortgages, car loans, equipment leases and utility bills, ensures you’ll never miss a payment or incur a late fee again.

Complete your estate plan

Your estate plan should include a will, revocable trust, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney and guardianship designations. Despite the importance of estate planning, 58 percent of adults do not have an estate plan. Work with an attorney to prepare the documents. If you have an estate plan, do an annual review and make any necessary updates.

Shop for better rates

Call around to see if lower rates are available on all of your household expenses and investments. The research could net better deals on everything from car insurance and the cable bill to the interest rate on your credit card.

In one survey, nine out of 10 Americans who haggled over fees got better deals, including an average of $80 savings on a cell phone plan.

Before signing on for a better rate, read the fine print. Does a bank require a minimum balance to switch to a higher interest savings account? What are the terms and conditions linked to a zero percent balance transfer offer?

Check your credit report

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires all three credit reporting companies — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — to provide one free copy of your credit report every year.

Review each credit report carefully and make sure the information is accurate and up to date. If you spot any errors, notify the credit bureaus and the Federal Trade Commission. Errors could be a sign of possible identity theft, a crime that affects more than 15 million Americans every year, according to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study.

Evaluate investments

Set aside time to review investment accounts, including your 401(k) and IRA to make sure the investments are appropriate for your goals and tax situation. Consider working with a pro. An investment advisor can help you choose the right mix of funds and make trades as needed.

Spring cleaning your finances is the seasonal chore that pays dividends all year long. Need additional budgeting tips? Your Farm Bureau agent or advisor can help with smart budgeting tools.

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