April 15th is just hours away, and many people are scrambling to compile their tax data and meet the IRS deadline. Since many of these people are also vowing to better organize their finances next year to avoid the last minute stress, here are some tips for a more organized financial life.
Use on-line banking and bill paying for utilities, mortgages, car payments, etc. Not only will this save you time and cut down on the amount of paper clutter you receive, but the institution generally maintains records for a sufficient number of years and copies of transactions are readily available.
Create a file folder where all tax related documents are collected during the year. This may include1099 forms, security brokers’ year-end statements, annual mortgage interest, real estate tax statements, letters supporting charitable contributions, etc. When it’s time to file your tax return, simply provide this folder to your tax preparer.
Look at last year’s documentation. Many tax preparers send an annual organizer to their clients showing prior year information. This is a wonderful reminder of the documentation that was provided in the prior year, what would be expected in the current year, and any changes that may have occurred.
Educate yourself about your financial responsibility. Speak to a tax preparer and/or financial planner at frequent intervals and question them in order to again a better understanding of your financial matters.
Know your credit score. See what you can do to improve it and ensure that it’s correct.
Save bank statements, credit card statements, and other statements as pdf’s on your computer instead of accumulating paper.
Ensure estate planning is up-to-date. Know where estate planning documents are stored and ensure that the correct people know where to find them. Have a list of all retirement accounts and life insurance policies including beneficiaries.
Keep important documents in a fireproof safe box. This includes: insurance policies, wills/trusts, birth/marriage certificates, passports and other hard to replace documents in a fireproof safe box. Also, keep a back-up copy of the financial records on your computer here.
Maintain all important financial documents for at least seven years.