Three Ways to Help Simplify Your Finances
Over time, finances tend to get complicated, especially when you're juggling multiple goals and accounts. Simplifying your finances requires a bit of effort up front, but making just a few changes may help free up more time to focus on your financial priorities.
Make Saving Automatic
Saving for a goal is simpler when money is set aside automatically. For example, you may be able to regularly and automatically deposit a portion of your paycheck into a retirement account through your employer. Your contribution level may also increase automatically each year, if your plan offers this feature. Employers may also allow you to split your direct deposit into multiple accounts, enabling you to build up a college fund or an emergency fund, or direct money to an investment account.
Another way to make saving for multiple goals easier is to set up recurring transfers between your savings, checking, or other financial accounts. You decide on the frequency and timing of those transfers, and you can quickly make necessary adjustments.
Consolidate Retirement Funds
If you've had a few jobs, you might have several retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k) or 403(b) plans, with current and past employers. Consolidating them in one place may help make it easier to monitor and manage your retirement savings and distributions, and prevent you (or your beneficiaries) from forgetting about older or lower-balance accounts. Not all accounts can be combined, and there may be tax consequences, so discuss your options with your financial and/or tax professionals.
Take a Credit Card Inventory
Credit cards are convenient, but managing multiple credit-card accounts can be time-consuming and costly. Losing track of balances and due dates may lead to increased interest charges or late payments. You could also miss out on some of the rewards and benefits your cards offer. If you've accumulated a few credit cards, review interest rates, terms, credit limits, and benefits that may have changed since you got the cards. Ordering a copy of your credit report can help you quickly see all of your open credit-card accounts — there may be some you've forgotten about. Visit annualcreditreport.com to get a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).
Once you know what you have, you can decide which cards to use and put the rest aside. Because it's possible that your credit score might take a temporary hit, it may not always be a good idea to close accounts you're not using unless you have a compelling reason, such as a high annual fee or exposure to fraud.