Spring cleaning shouldn’t be limited to your home; it’s also time to get your finances and investments in order.
“Coming out of the end of the winter lull people might have some financial issues related to Christmas,” says Derek Gabrielsen, a wealth advisor at Strategic Wealth Partners. “It’s definitely a good time to take stock and see what you need to do to be successful for the rest of 2014.”
Money managers say calculating and categorizing your outstanding debt should be at the top of your clean-up list. Once you’ve established your debt, it’s time to prioritize payments and determine ways to pay down your bills quicker—whether it’s holding a yard sale to earn some extra cash or dedicating your tax return to your credit card statements.
Now is also a good time to call creditors and ask for lower interest rates. “You may look to consolidate the debt or do a home equity line of credit,” says Gabrielsen. “If you can’t pay things off, balance transfers to a different credit card [with a lower interest rate] is an option.”
The start of the spring is also the ideal time to look at your insurance products from a risk management point of view, recommends Brad Barrett, a private wealth manager and partner at One Capital Management.
If you have an umbrella policy for your home and automobile insurance, Barrett suggests reviewing the terms to make sure you are getting adequate coverage, particularly if there has been an increase in your home value or you added a new driver.
“Talk to your agent to make sure you have the best pricing for what you need,” he says. In the case of life insurance, he advises making sure you aren’t over insured. After all, you may not need a term policy if your kids are already adults. “You want to be mindful about what you are spending.”
One of the best ways to get a total picture of all your finances is to develop an asset and liability sheet and make sure it is updated on a quarterly basis.
John Gajkowski, co-founder of Money Managers Financial Group, says the list should include all your assets whether it’s a checking account, savings account, money market account or investment account and list the current balance as well as the account numbers. Then lost out all your liabilities be it credit card debt, student loans, a car loan or mortgage.
“Doing that will give you a good financial picture of where you stand,” says Gajkowski. “It’s a snapshot you can check on every quarter.” In addition to your asset and liability sheet, Gajkowski also advocates creating a detailed budget and reviewing it every month.
Once you have that in order, you can then list all your investments and have a running total of each one that is updated on a quarterly basis. That will enable you to make sure the investments are moving in the right direction without reacting to the near-term gyrations in the stock markets, which can lead to knee-jerk investment decision.
“If you are looking at trends versus short-term bleeps, it will keep you a lot saner,” says Gajkowski. “You won’t be worried on a day to day basis.”