Make the Most of Your Money in 2024 by Organizing
The new year is the perfect time to declutter your finances. Learn the simple way to organize, consolidate, and automate your way to financial order.
Do you find yourself asking questions like these?
- Have I paid that bill already, or am I late?
- What is the password for my insurance account?
- How quickly can I transfer funds from one financial institution to another?
- How much do I have in that 401(k) from my previous employer?
If you do, you may be dealing with financial clutter. Financial clutter does more than frustrate you and waste your time. It can hurt your credit score, lead to higher interest payments, and keep you from growing your money for the future.
The good news is that you can declutter your finances and make them easier to manage for the future. All you need to do is follow these steps to organize, consolidate, and automate your way to clutter-free finances.
Assess and Organize Your Accounts
The first step will be the most involved. Take the time to gather all your financial information in one place. You may be surprised by how many accounts you have.
- Financial institution accounts: checking, savings, money market, certificates
- Credit cards: bank credit cards, store cards
- Insurance: health, homeowners, life, car, disability
- Investment accounts: brokerage accounts
- Loans: mortgage, auto, student, personal, home equity
- Retirement accounts: 401(k), 403(b), traditional IRA, Roth IRA, annuities, pensions
- Education accounts: 529 plan information, Coverdell ESAs
Once you’ve gathered all your information, create a password protected spreadsheet, and list each account as follows:
- Account name
- Account number
- Website used to access account information
- Login information
- Type of account (bank, credit card, loan, retirement, etc.)
For each type of account, also include the following information:
- Financial institution accounts: current balance, interest rate
- Credit cards: current balance, APR
- Insurance: monthly payment
- Loans: current balance, monthly payment, estimated date to pay off the balance
- Investment, retirement, and education accounts: current balance, current monthly contribution
Using this spreadsheet, you should be able to easily access, review, and compare your financial information. Update the spreadsheet monthly to reflect new balances, password changes, or any cancelled or consolidated accounts. Be sure to use a strong password if your spreadsheet is digital.
Consolidate for Simplicity and Savings
One of the biggest obstacles to managing your finances is juggling multiple accounts with multiple institutions. Consolidating accounts makes it easier to review all of your information at once and may offer rewards like better interest rates, fewer fees, and improved customer service.
If you have your money distributed across multiple financial institutions, consider closing some accounts and consolidating everything with one institution. Trying to decide which financial institution to use? Ask yourself which offers competitive interest rates, loans and investment options, great customer service and financial planning resources, and a full-service mobile banking platform. Talk with your preferred institution about your goals and situation.
Are you carrying credit card balances on multiple credit cards? See which have the lowest-interest rates and the best rewards. Transfer balances from the high-interest cards to the lower interest cards.
It’s likely you have several types of loans, including student loans, an auto loan, or maybe a mortgage. Refer to your spreadsheet and check out the interest rates. Then speak to your financial institution to see if they can help you refinance at more favorable terms.
If you have multiple 401(k), 403(b), and/or pension accounts from different employers, you may be able to consolidate them to simplify your finances and potentially save some money on fees. Speak with your employer to see if you can roll over a pension plan or 401(k) or 403(b) from a previous employer into your current employer’s plan. If not, consider rolling money from those plans into a single IRA. Remember, different account types have different advantages and disadvantages. Check with your investment advisor or tax advisor to learn about the rules surrounding these tax-advantaged retirement plans.
Automate for Easy Financial Management
Now that you’ve organized your information and consolidated your accounts, you can automate your finances. Automating takes the potential for human error out of managing your finances and provides the up-to-the-minute information that you need to manage your money.
The easiest way to pay bills, save, and invest is to automate those tasks. Most businesses will allow you to pay bills automatically through their online portal. If they don’t, your financial institution can help. You can set up automated bill payment as well as transfers from checking to savings and investment accounts.
Many financial institutions allow you to set up mobile alerts. Alerts can notify you when a deposit is received, checks and other payments clear, and if your balance is low. Set up your account to notify you when payments or transfers occur over a certain amount, and you’ll have an extra firewall against fraud.
If you’re still cashing your paychecks, now’s the time to set up direct deposit at work. This will ensure your pay gets to your account quickly, every single time, without the risk of lost or stolen paychecks. For other checks, take advantage of your financial institution’s mobile banking app to deposit checks from virtually anywhere, whenever it’s convenient for you.
Stick to Your New Year's Resolution with American Heritage
If you’re looking for help in getting your financial house in order, talk to us! We can provide you with resources to help you organize, consolidate, and automate your finances. Learn more about our tools and services by browsing our website or reaching out today. We can't wait to help you achieve your financial goals.