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02-01-2017 • Stop Financial Clutter

In this next installment of New Year, New Finances, We Own Our Bank looks at financial clutter. Just like the clutter found throughout your home or work area, financial clutter can suck up time and space. It also can lead to lost money.

First, you have to find out what your financial clutter is. Do you have too many credit cards? Are your desk drawers overflowing with old receipts and statements? Is your money spread out at various financial institutions? Once you know where the clutter is, you can go about dealing with it. We’ll look at these three areas to see how to declutter.

Credit Cards: If you’re concerned with closing credit card accounts because of the impact it can have on your credit score, consider cutting them up. See which ones have the highest rates, then check if you can transfer the amounts to your lower-rate cards. Your credit score is not hurt and you have erased extra paperwork and the temptation to use these cards.

Old Documents. Some people keep every single document or receipt they get. If you’re one of these people—listen up: you don’t have to keep it all! Now isn’t that a weight off your shoulders? If you still have receipts from a 2015 shopping trip, it’s pretty safe to throw those away; particularly if you reconciled them with your credit union, bank, or credit card statement.

Financial experts usually recommend keeping certain important documents for about seven years, such as tax-related items. There are some you should keep for an indefinite period of time or permanently, including birth certificates, marriage or divorce documents, military documents, life insurance policies, loan documents, and house deeds and mortgage documents. You should try to keep these records in a safe and easily retrievable place.

Multiple Accounts: Unless you’re supremely wealthy, you only need one to possibly three checking or savings accounts. The more accounts you have the more likely you are to incur extra fees or charges, or the account can be declared dead and the money sent or escheated to the state.

Make a list of all of your accounts. If your accounts are at multiple financial institutions, see which one provide you with the services you’re seeking the most, and offer the best rates and fees. Then, consolidate your accounts. Many financial institutions, including credit unions, provide switch kits to help make this process easier.

A few other notes: consider setting a filing system that works for you. That can help make your financial clutter a little more manageable. In addition, as you declutter, make sure to shred anything with personal information to avoid identity theft.