Time for a spring financial cleaningPublished 11:06pm Friday, March 22, 2013
By Nathan Rice
I am having my first case of spring fever. The sun is out, the weather is warmer and the countdown to opening day at Harbor Park has begun.
I have also begun my spring cleaning. The origins of spring cleaning are in dispute. Some say it dates to the Persians, who cleaned their houses before the Persian New Year in spring. Others say it dates to the Jewish celebration of Passover, when families would clean their homes prior to the celebration.
Regardless of its origins, the concept of spring cleaning has taken hold in America and, to the chagrin of many children, countless families participate in some form of spring cleaning.
This year, perhaps we should also spring clean our “financial homes.”
If you have not taken a look at your credit report recently, begin by obtaining a copy of it. You can pull a report from all three major credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com, the official site to help consumers obtain their credit reports. Best of all, there are no hidden fees, and you are not required to sign up for any credit monitoring, which is often the case with other credit-reporting websites.
Examine your credit report to ensure all information reported is accurate. Credit reports are like the closets of our financial home. We think we know what’s in them, but sometimes we are surprised to see what has been tucked into the corner.
If there any discrepancies, contact the lender to correct them. If you cannot come to a resolution with the lender, you can lodge a dispute directly with the credit bureau.
Once you know all the information is correct, you can clean your report by working to resolve any negative items.
It is also wise to periodically look at your investments. Gather your investments to see how they performed in 2012. Then schedule an appointment with your financial advisor for a review of your investments.
Investment needs change over time. Perhaps an investment that worked for you in the past needs to be switched or adjusted to fit your current lifestyle and financial goals. Also, if you have an employee-sponsored retirement plan, do you know how it is invested and if it is invested wisely?
Banking products and services are often our most used financial products. However, sometimes we fail to see if our current financial institution is still meeting our financial needs. Just as we can become used to clutter in our homes, we get used to the clutter of fees and poor customer service.
Look for checking accounts with no monthly maintenance fees. Some institutions even offer checking accounts that come with rewards, such as interest on the funds in the account and ATM fees refunded.
With a plethora of financial institutions vying to earn your business, it may be time to replace your current institution with a fresh, new institution.
Finally, look at your household budget. If you do not have a household budget, begin by creating one. This budget can help you answer the question, “Where does all my money go?”
If you already have a budget, take a look at your monthly finances. Are there expenditures that can be cut? Do you have any expenses that made sense at the time but you no longer utilize? Are you able to lower expenses by making changes to your cable, telephone or Internet provider?
Everything, including our finances, occasionally needs a thorough examination and cleaning.
Nathan Rice is the Relationship Manager of the Downtown Suffolk branch of ABNB Federal Credit Union. He is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.