You’ve cleaned out the closets and washed the windows. As you tackle this year’s spring cleaning, don’t forget to spend some time sprucing up your personal finances as well.
Begin with your taxes
Your completed tax return is a window into your finances. Don’t file it away without first taking a moment to consider how your tax situation might change this year. New jobs, babies and college graduations can all impact your tax obligation.
Whether you received a refund or tax bill, it may be time to adjust your withholdings. The more dependents you claim, the less money is taken out of your paycheck, and vice versa. To make changes, get a W-4 from your employer. For more help, go to www.irs.gov and type “withholding calculator” in the search field.
Review your credit report
More than one-third of us have mistakes on our credit reports that could hurt our chances of getting credit, a mortgage or even a job, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
That’s why you should carefully review your credit report annually. Consumers can order a free copy from all three major credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. You’ll learn if your report lists any slow payments, credit inquiries or credit cards you didn’t know about. Dispute any inaccuracies immediately in writing.
Determine your net worth
Continue your spring cleaning by taking a close look at your personal balance sheet. To calculate how much you’re worth, total your assets— cash, checking and savings accounts, retirement savings, stocks and other sources. Add the value of your house, car and other possessions. From that total, subject your debts, including loans, credit cards and mortgages. The number that remains is your net worth.
What should your net worth be? Some experts suggest you multiply your age by your pre-tax household income and divide by 10. So, if you’re 45 and make $60,000 a year, your net worth should be calculated as follows: 45 x 60,000 ÷ 10, or $270,000. But this is a rule of thumb; your circumstances will dictate what’s realistic.
No, it’s not fun. But there’ll come a time when you’ll wish you had a list of your assets and debts, including account numbers and information. Locate and organize important papers such as wills, deeds and bank books. While you’re at it, use your camera to document each room in your home for insurance purposes. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just get it down and assemble all the information in one place. Give a copy to someone you trust. Not only will it be easier for your heirs, but it will also make next year’s tax return preparation easier.
Make a to-do list of financial improvements
Now that you know where you stand, make a list of financial improvements to aspire to—whether it’s being debt-free, taking a special vacation or adding to your home. Spring is also a good time to update your estate plans to ensure your assets pass as you intended and your heirs avoid unnecessary taxes.
And, while you’re doing your traditional spring cleaning, keep an eye out for coins in your couch cushions and junk drawers. The average American has $99 in coins scattered about, according to Coinstar. Invest that $99 in a savings account each year for 10 years at 5 percent interest and you’ll have about $1,300. Hey, every penny counts, so start cleaning today! tpw