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Money tune-up

Author offers a springtime fix for your finances

March 14, 2011
The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Author Kimberly Palmer recently provided some tips for giving your finances a spring tune up.

Palmer, the author of "Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back," recently provided the following list of 11 suggestions for a cleaner and healthier financial life, which were featured in the Money section of U.S. News and World Report's website.

Here are some of the tips:

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- Put papers in their proper place. You're probably just wrapping up your taxes, which means it's the perfect time to establish some smarter paper-tracking habits. Regina Leeds, the "zen organizer" and author of "One Year to an Organized Life," suggests setting up a file system to easily store receipts that pile up throughout the year. For example, you might want to have separate files for expenses related to your car, business, health care, and child care.

- If you don't need it, toss it (or archive it). You'll probably need to hang on to important documents (some states require taxpayers to keep up to 10 years of filings on hand), but much of your old paperwork belongs in the trash or the shredder if it has valuable information on it, such as bank account numbers. Store your most important documents, such as certificates, in an archival box or locked metal file cabinet that's separate from your day-to-day files, advises Leeds. "Every year, take a look at your archived files. You might be able to eliminate a few projects each year," she adds.

- Go electronic, go green. Just about everything these days is online, so all the old rules about what you need to keep are changing," says Russell Wild, a fee-only financial planner in Allentown, Pa. Credit card statements, bills, paycheck records, investment account statements, and even tax paperwork can often be shifted online. "Just make sure you have access," says Wild, meaning a system for keeping track of all your passwords.

- Check your credit. Your credit report deserves a little TLC, too. Get your free annual credit report at to check for any errors, and fix any mistakes that could be dragging down your score, Cheng says.

- Play catch-up. "It's a great time to assess that status of your retirement savings, both for 2010, but also for 2011," says Nathan Gendelman, director of investments at the Family Firm, a fee-only financial-planning firm in Bethesda, Md. Many retirement account plans allow employees to make catch-up contributions for 2010 through April 15 of this year, for example. He says people should ask themselves if they can make IRA contributions and if they are maxing out their 401(k) or 403(b) plans. (The annual contribution limit is $16,500 for 2010 and 2011.)

- Cover up. Check on your insurance coverage, including renters, homeowners, life, and car. Do you have enough? Or do you have too much? When it comes to a car, for example, older vehicles may no longer need comprehensive coverage, says Cheng. Meanwhile, raising your deductible on homeowner's insurance could lower your rate. "Consider bundling services to obtain a discount," says Cheng. Your credit check also helps you here, since consumers with lower credit scores are often considered higher-risk individuals and assessed higher coverage rates, she adds. At the same time, make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date.

- Check your investments. The ups and downs of the stock market might have knocked your portfolio out of whack. Take the time to rebalance it, based on your age and desired risk level, says Cheng. "You can't take the 'set it and forget it' attitude with your retirement savings," she adds, since such a passive attitude could result in an overly risky-or insufficiently aggressive-portfolio.

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