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Consumer Archive

Consumer

Spring cleaning Spruce up your financial house

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McLEAN, Va. (4/23/08)--While you’re spring cleaning around your house and yard, take a little more time to reduce clutter and spruce up your financial house as well (MarketWatch April 7). These five tips will give you a head start:
* Straighten up your credit. You’re entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. Visit annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. Dispute any discrepancies and follow up on questions you have. * Dust-bust your bills. Think you can’t live without cell phone extras and satellite TV? Do you really need all of those premium movie channels? It’s summer--you’ll be spending more time outside anyway. * Shred documents you don’t need. Keep receipts until warranties expire or if you’ll need them for tax purposes. Keep other receipts until credit card or account statements arrive. If receipts match up with the statements, use a cross-cut shredder on receipts. Keep credit union account statements and paycheck stubs for one year, then shred. When warranties expire, throw them out. Keep tax return documents indefinitely, as well as personal documents such as birth certificates and marriage licenses. * Buff up beneficiaries. Update beneficiaries on retirement and insurance accounts and review your will. Major changes such as a marriage, birth or death are triggers that you need to update your information (CNNMoney.com March 14). * Tidy up insurance policies. Review policies to make sure you have sufficient life, auto, and homeowners insurance. Contact your agent to see if you may be eligible for lower rates or discounts. “One key to acquiring the right insurance, in the right amount, is to identify the financial losses you could not recover from without help. But that's not a decision you only make once: The variables that affect those decisions change all through your life,” says Susan Tiffany, director of Credit Union National Association's adult finance publications in Madison, Wis.
For more information about organizing your finances, read the Financial Fitness Challenge, “Organize Your Financial Records,” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center. Also, read “Sell, Scrap, or Give: Useful Ends for Your Useless Stuff” to help get rid of more household clutter.