Cleaning Springs Eternal

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Mother Nature is trying to kick Old Man Winter to the curb. Let’s put out the welcome mat for spring!

Sure, we’re still fluctuating between snowfall and short sleeves, but blooming gardens and the smell of freshly cut grass are just around the corner. Open the windows and let the fresh spring breeze replace that stale winter air. It’s a time of renewal, so why not renew your vows to get your financial house in order? Now’s a great time for some spring financial cleaning! Let’s get things minimized and organized with some tips from money.com.

  • Tax paper—Tax time is winding down for this year, but give some thought to next year. Remember what a drag it was slogging through all the scattered paperwork? Eliminate the headache by setting up a filing system that separates your receipts. Create a file for business, health care, childcare, vehicle maintenance, household, etc. Set up a file for other paperwork, such as income (1099) forms. Next year all the info will be right at your fingertips and ready to go.
     
  • Pitch in/Pitch out—While you may need to hang on to some important documents for a longer period of time (to be safe, tax returns seven years according to the IRS), many don’t need a long shelf life. Bank records. Bills. Statements. Here’s a fairly thorough listing of what to keep and for how long.
     
  • Go green—These days just about everything can be found online, including statements, bills, etc. Think of all the clutter avoided if your information was held in the convenient confines of your desktop computer rather than your desktop.
     
  • Credit report—If your credit report has incorrect information, it could be affecting you in a detrimental way. Bad credit can cost you money. You’re able to see your credit report free once a year, so be sure to check yours for any errors. The three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) created annualcreditreport.com specifically for this purpose.
     
  • Uncle Sam and you—Now is a great time to review your tax situation. If you received a large refund for 2010, consider withholding less throughout the year. Don’t make a tax refund a forced savings plan; you earn absolutely zero interest on your money! If you owed a lot of money this year, you might want to increase withholdings so you don’t have a big tax hit.
     
  • Cover all—How’s your insurance coverage? Auto. Home. Life. Give them all a good review. Raising deductibles could lower rates. Does your insurance company offer deals if you bundle coverages? Vantage offers insurance options if you decide to shop around. Also, be sure your beneficiary information is up-to-date.
     
  • Lighter wheels—Who doesn’t look forward to washing off all that grime from the outside of our vehicles on the first nice day? While you’re at it, take out anything big, bulky and heavy you’ve stored on the inside. With fuel being so expensive, a lighter car can save you even more these days with better gas mileage. So get the bowling ball, golf clubs and three cases of bottled water out of the trunk.
     
  • Taking stock—How’re your investments looking? Things are always changing on this front. The stock market changes. Your time until retirement changes. Perhaps your tolerance to risk has changed. Get with your financial advisor and review your portfolio. Have you ever considered working with the Vantage Investment Services Group? We offer a complimentary financial analysis and can help with updating your portfolio to reflect where your needs today.

You might be amazed at how getting your financial house in order can create a sense of peace. Take this time to enjoy it. Hang the hammock, pour yourself some iced tea and make note of the happy songs of the birds.

If, after all the organizing, you find you’re stuck with quite a bit of sensitive material and no way to safely dispose of it, make note of this date:

April 30, 2011

It’s Credit Union Shred Day. Bring your material to our Bridgeton branch and shred it for free from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.