Time for an end-of-year review

We’re now down to the final months of the year, and looking ahead to a fresh start in 2013. To take full advantage of that new start, it can help you to review the different parts of your finances now. You can perform routine maintenance, tie up loose ends, assess where you stand, and create new goals that you can set in motion in January.

In today’s column, we’ll go over an annual checklist of basic maintenance steps you can take to keep each of your financial accounts updated. You can carry out these steps all at once across your accounts, or you can use these steps as a warm-up for analyzing each account in depth.

Here is what you can do for each financial account:

Change your online password and security questions. Periodically changing your passwords will keep your account secure. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters for your passwords. Do not use common phrases, and try to lengthen your password. Use unique passwords for each online account you have, especially for your financial accounts.

Update your basic personal information. If you switch cell phone providers or start using a different email account more often, these changes can slip through the cracks. To make sure that your contact information stays current on your accounts, and that you see emailed bill reminders and important communications when you need to see them, review and update your personal information periodically. 

Update your emergency and disaster planning checklists. An emergency financial checklist or letter can be an enormous help to your family if you suddenly become incapacitated or pass away. You can also use this checklist as part of your disaster planning kit. Once you have prepared this emergency checklist, review it at least annually, to make sure you have captured all of the major changes to your accounts.

Add or review emergency customer service numbers on your cell phone. This precautionary measure can help you in the future, by allowing you to quickly report a lost or stolen credit or debit card. Thieves will have less of an opportunity to use your card, and you will receive a replacement card that much more quickly.

Organize your files. You should have a separate file (paper, electronic, or both) for every financial account that you have. Organizing each file is a good warm-up for your annual review of each account. This will also make it easier to verify information on your credit report, build a solid picture of your financial behavior, and ease the strain at tax time. If you itemize deductions on your tax return, organized statements will help you quickly track down important purchases.

Make sure all of your documents for that account are gathered in one place, file your statements chronologically, and keep your account communications and statements separate.

Track your ideas. Organizing each file will remind you of tasks that you meant to complete, or give you new ideas about managing the account or pursuing a new goal. Keep track of these reminders and ideas on a separate list. You will refer to them again as you take a closer look at your accounts during your annual review.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com

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