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  • 5-Minute Article
  • |
  • Sep 01, 2020

7 Personal-Finance Projects You Can Do From Home

Organize and simplify your financial life to help save you time and money.

4 Retirement Planning Lessons From the Past

Content created by Kiplinger, modified with permission for use by Brighthouse Financial.

Questions this article can help you answer:
  • What are some steps I can take to organize my financial life?
  • How can I better protect my finances?
  • How do I talk to a loved one about my finances?

There are strategies you can implement to help simplify and streamline your financial life. Consider these seven personal-finance projects to free up both time and money in the comfort of your own home.

 

1. Prepare Financial Information
 

Assemble and store information about all of your accounts, passwords, and points of contact. Couples are encouraged to perform this task together and share instructions on where to find the important records.

Use a checklist to compile copies of the following documents along with instructions on where to find the original versions. The list should include:

  • A will
  • Powers of attorney for financial and health affairs
  • Contact information for a financial professional, tax preparer, attorney, repairman, and insurance agent
  • Information about accounts with banks
  • Car titles
  • Insurance policies
  • Appliance warranties

Couples Work With Their Financial Professional

Mutual planning also includes other key tasks:

  • Review and list all automatic debits and transfers from your accounts
  • Update beneficiaries and confirm rights of survivorship as necessary
  • Obtain a copy of each spouse’s credit reports

 

2. Review Your Investing Plan and Consider Rebalancing
 

Set investment goals and create a plan to meet them. If you haven’t already, take the time to consider and write down current priorities for your portfolio to help guide discussions with your financial professional.

Goals can be short term (taking a vacation) or long term (leaving a legacy to your heirs). Use long-term investments, such as stocks and bonds, to help achieve long-term goals. Use cash and other relatively safe, liquid interest-bearing investments to help accomplish short-term goals.

Portfolios may also benefit from a strategy shift following a move into bull or bear market territory. Regular portfolio maintenance that realigns assets to make sure they reflect the allocations you’ve chosen – a process known as rebalancing – can help minimize investment risk and keep you on track with a plan that supports your goals. Rebalancing works by trimming asset groups that have performed relatively well and adding to holdings that have been slow to grow.

 

3. Streamline Your Finances
 

Simplifying your financial life can help create more time for the things that matter most to you. Here are some ideas that could help trim your financial management tasks:

  • Enlist the help of a financial professional who can help you monitor your portfolio and select the right investment mix
  • Make budgeting easier with apps like Mint or Pocketguard
  • Ask a financial professional about the potential benefits of combining your home and auto insurance
  • Use a guide to help decide what documents you can shred that you no longer need
  • Consider consolidating credit card balances
  • Consult with your financial professional for recommendations on how to reduce financial complexity and advance simplicity

 

4. Open a Social Security Account
 

Create a free account with Social Security to check your earnings history against your W-2 forms or tax returns to make sure there are no gaps in your earnings record that could reduce benefits. You can also estimate retirement, disability, and survivor benefits and, in certain cases, request a replacement Social Security card.

To set up an account, go to www.ssa.gov/myaccount. You’ll be asked to enter some personal details, answer questions to confirm your identity, and choose a unique username and password.

 

5. Protect Your Passwords
 

The advice from security experts for many years has been to protect online accounts by changing passwords frequently and ensuring that those passwords are complex – including letters, numbers, and special characters. But many people continue to rely on passwords, such as “123456,” “password,” and “qwerty.” Here are two strategies to help keep your accounts safe:

  • Consider signing up with an online password management program that can store all of your passwords behind one master password. A password manager can also help you create strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts.
  • Enable two-factor or multi-step authentication on any account that allows it. You’ll enter your username and password as usual, but the account will then confirm your identity each time you log in by asking you to enter a code that has been sent to your smartphone or email address. This extra layer of security can keep your account more secure, and you’ll know if an intruder attempts to log in with your password.

 

6. Review Your Credit Reports
 

If you haven’t reviewed your credit reports lately, you can access them online. Ordinarily, you can collect free copies of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies once every 12 months. Given some effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are offering free weekly online reports through April 2021.

If you discover inaccuracies within any of the credit reports, such as a credit card account or mailing address that you don’t recognize, you can take steps to correct it online.

 

7. Complete an Insurance Checkup
 

Review and update insurance priorities, which may change as you get closer to retirement. For example, if you’re still working, your employer’s short- and long-term disability insurance benefit can help replace part of your income should you be unable to work. Once you retire, however, that need diminishes – allowing you to repurpose premium dollars spent on disability insurance for other safeguards.

To replace expiring term life insurance coverage, a hybrid life insurance and long-term care product may be an option – offering financial protection for you and your loved ones in two important ways.

Read 7 Steps to Simplify Finances in Retirement and work with your financial professional to help streamline your financial life.

 

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