The April 15 tax deadline has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about your finances until next year. Now is the time for a little spring cleaning — of your personal finances that is. The steps you take now will not only help you improve your future financial situation, they will also better prepare you for filing next year’s tax return.
Review your most recent return
I know, the last thing you want to do is revisit the tax return you just filed, but now is the best time to review your return, while the information is still fresh. Did you have tax due or did you receive a large refund? If so, consider changing your withholding. Did you lose important receipts and miss out on charitable donation deductions and other credits? If so, put a plan in place now to save receipts. Personally, I scan receipts so that I have a digital copy as a backup to the original.
Experts recommend that you check your retirement savings account annually; since you have to file a tax return annually, tacking this spring cleaning step onto your schedule just makes sense. Make sure you’re saving enough to meet your retirement needs, rebalance your account and don’t forget to sit down with an investment professional to get a big-picture look at your financial future.
Short-term savings plans
Don’t just set up a savings plan for retirement; you also need to look at any near-term financial goals. Do you need to boost your cash emergency fund? If so, write out a plan that details how you will meet this goal. Is a family vacation in the works for next year? Start a savings plan now so that you can cash flow your trip.
Check your credit report
Did you know that 42 million Americans have errors on their credit report? Errors can lower your credit score and in turn, increase the interest rate you pay on your mortgage, auto insurance and other financial products. Get into the habit of checking your credit report annually. You can order a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com
Make a plan to pay down debt
Are you still paying on student loans even though you graduated a decade ago? Is your credit card debt load stagnant? If so, you may just need to have a written plan to make a dent in your debt. Simply write down each of your credit account balances, including auto loans, credit cards and student loans, and then put them in the order you want to pay them off. Some folks prefer highest interest rate to lowest interest rate and others want to start with the smallest debt first. I don’t care how you order them, just put them in order and write out how you plan to pay them off as soon as possible. This means making more than the minimum payment, so you may need to look elsewhere in your budget for an extra $20 or $100 a month to expedite the process.
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