Posts Tagged ‘ budgeting ’

Organize Your Finances in Five Easy Steps


File-Folder-$$Do you know your net worth? Do you know how much you spend each month…and on what? Do you know how much you can expect from your pension plan or Social Security when you reach retirement?

If you answered “no” to at least one of these questions, you’re not alone. The majority of Americans don’t have an accurate pulse on their finances. Some people may feel they don’t have time to organize their finances. For others, the thought of doing so is too overwhelming. They may not know where to start, so they just never try.

Even so, it’s important to know where you stand financially and where you’d like to be in the future. Then, you can enjoy those short-term gains, while still being on track to meet your long-term goals.

Here’s a five-step action plan to help you take control of your money:

Set up a financial filing system. This can be as simple as making sure that all the bills you receive in the mail get put in the same spot every month. It also includes setting up a budget so you know your monthly income and expenses.

Gather important records. Look through your records to identify missing information. For example, if you need an estimate of your Social Security retirement benefits, contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213. Also, make sure to gather copies of your health, disability, life, homeowners and vehicle insurance policies. You’ll also want to keep a copy of your credit report with these documents. You can request a free credit report yearly at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you find any discrepancies, correct them immediately. Keep all of these records in one place and update the old copies with the new documents each year

Size up your situation. Add the estimated current value of all assets, including your home, car, personal property, savings, investments and retirement accounts. Next, add all liabilities, including mortgage, credit card balances and any other outstanding debt. Then subtract liabilities from assets to figure out your net worth.

From there, make a list of income and expenses by reviewing paycheck stubs, your checkbook register and credit card statements from the past year. Finally, track spending for a month by saving all of your receipts or recording cash purchases in a notebook. A spending plan form or a money management software program helps organize spending by category.

Chart a course. Once you know your net worth and you’ve developed a baseline for your monthly spending habits, the next step is to set financial goals – both long-term and short-term – and figure how much money you’ll need for each. Create a targeted saving and spending plan that meets your needs using your list of income and expenses. For a month or more, track actual spending to see how you’re doing, making adjustments as necessary.

Brush up on money-management basics. This can include developing a budget, being diligent at balancing your checkbook and even visiting a financial advisor.

By taking these actions to organize your finances, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you reach your short-term goals. Plus, you’ll feel peace of mind knowing you’re working toward your long-term plans.

Concerned About Debt? Read this


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