Cleaning up your Financial Mess!
Cleaning up your finances can be a big project, but small steps will get the job done. You've got big plans to move your finances to the next level, but where do you start? Consider this: you can't move forward unless you know exactly where you are!
First, schedule a couple of hours - and no more - to spend some time with the paperwork you already have. Bank and mortgage statements, retirement and investment account information, prospectus mailings, tax forms - all that stuff you set to the side because you didn't have the time to give it the attention it deserves. Now is the time to go through each and every sheet.
Got more paperwork than you can go cover in one sitting? Set up a weekly time to sit for at most two hours - more than that and you'll likely get bored - and sift through your old papers.
Next, remember the cardinal rule of cleanup: touch each piece of paper only once. You've got three potential actions for each item - file it, recycle/shred it, or act on it. That's what the rest of the week is for - acting on the items that need follow up. At the end of each session, you should have a stack of any items that need immediate action. Be honest with yourself about what "immediate" means: if you can't take action on something within a week, then file it. You want to make real progress, not create more work for yourself.
Divide the "action" stack into five, and tackle one stack of action items every day. (Do the math - that gives you one day a week in which you don't touch your finances. Give your brain a break that day!) Make the calls you need to make, update the accounts that need updating, do whatever it is that you need to do. By the time you sit down again to go through your remaining paperwork, you'll have the momentum of all those completed "action items" to keep you motivated.
Don't forget to go through your old files as well. Why are you keeping bank statements and tax records from the early 1990s? Or old maintenance and insurance paperwork for cars you no longer own? Get rid of that stuff!
Once you get your papers organized, don't forget about that other stockpile of unnecessary financial data: your email inboxes. If you've got old bank statements or bill notices taking up space, use the same approach as you did with the hard copies - file them in subfolders, delete them, or take action on them immediately, *then* file or delete them, but get them out of your inbox!
By cleaning your slate, you can progress to making the financial improvements that you've always wanted to achieve with the added confidence that will come from getting your present life in order.
Contributing editor Maria Webster is the Editor of ".51 - Geekspace for Women".
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