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Total Financial Makeover
Financial Spring Cleaning
March, 2006 - Issue #17
Spring cleaning is an American tradition. There is something about the warmer weather that makes us want to fling open the windows, air out the closets, beat the rugs and polish the silver. But what about our finances? Wouldn't spring be a good time to organize and sort them out, too?

We think that spring is the perfect time to get your finances in order. Spring cleaning your finances will help you save time and reduce stress. Getting your financial affairs in order will give you peace of mind. Knowing exactly where you stand financially lets you make good decisions about managing your money. The results will simplify your life, save on expenses and create a plan to invest in your family's future.

All you'll need to begin is some basic office equipment such as filing boxes and some file folders. The major filing categories you may want to start with should include bank accounts, investment accounts, household accounts, credit card debt, taxes, insurance, wills/trusts, retirement accounts and social security. You can also get additional tips and ideas to help you get your finances in order from www.clarkhoward.com and www.financial-education-icfe.org.

Once you have set up your system, start filing important documents related to your financial affairs. This way you will have all of your important documents in one place. This will save you time and frustration in the future.

Your next step should be a financial inventory. You can download a simple worksheet from www.tfswealth.com. This will allow you to estimate your net worth, which is valuable in determining your current financial picture and planning for your future. This step is important in managing your finances because you can only manage what you know. Once you know where you stand you can begin making changes to help you increase your net worth right away.

Most people are less than satisfied with their finances. They always seem to be a few dollars short at the end of the month, or maybe the credit card bill balance keeps climbing. Living like this prevents you from saving for your future needs or college for your kids.

Take a look at your spending. Keep a detailed list of everything you buy for a week. You'll probably find easy ways to trim your budget. For example, that $4 you spend every day for coffee and a muffin adds up to a princely sum of $80 every month. Get everyone in the family to keep a detailed inventory of everything they spend for a week, and have fun with this. Have family contests. See who can think up the most creative way to save money every week.

Put the money you save to good use. First and most important, start by saving a portion in what we'll call an emergency account. Second, add a set amount to accelerate the pay-off of your credit card bills. A simple "stacking" process can have you out of debt in a very short time.

Without the needless spending and reduced credit card expense, you've really got some extra cash in your pocket now. Remember your retirement plans, start a savings account for college and involve the entire family. Make sure everyone shares the benefits of the savings.

As always, now is the best time to deal with these issues. You'll find that a few minor adjustments will have a significant impact on your financial future and peace of mind. The longer you wait to spruce up your finances, the harder it will be. That's why spring cleaning your finances today is a good idea.

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Mike Finder works at Total Financial Solutions, Inc.
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