Deborah Meyers - Accountant
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experience,  you'll receive personal
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Tax Tips
Washington, D.C. (March 15, 2011) By Accounting Today Staff

Tax season is in full bloom and Americans are up to
their elbows in statements, receipts and 1099s, but it
may be a good time for people to clean up their
finances while they’re doing their spring cleaning and
taking their taxes to their accountants.

The IRS tells us it will only take an hour or so to fill out
our 1040s, but they clearly have not factored in the time
it takes us to sort through – let alone find – our financial
information. Thoughts of a giant post–April 15th bonfire
may come to mind, but before you light the match,
consider another, more sensible way to handle your

Here are 10 ways to freshen up your finances:

1. Store it. Set up a three–tier storage system: get
hanging files for information you will need within the
next year, such as receipts or transaction confirmations;
storage bins for documents you need to save for more
than one year, such as tax returns (3 years after filing)
or real estate records (for as long as you own the
property, plus 3 years); and a fireproof, lockable box for
difficult–to–replace items such as your Social Security
card, wills and other estate planning documents.

2. Review your beneficiaries. Make a clean sweep of
your estate plan by checking that the correct
beneficiaries are designated on your insurance policies
and qualified retirement accounts.  For example, minor
children cannot inherit assets outright without a trust or

3. Double check your estate plan. While you have your
hands on those estate planning documents, reread
them to see if anything in your life has changed that
would make revisions necessary.

4. Get your free credit report. It's available annually
(  Get a copy and be sure
to read it closely. That way, you can clean up any
entries made by creditors that are incorrect.

5. Save automatically. Set up a regular transfer from
your paycheck or checking account to a savings
account and begin building an emergency reserve.
Then forget about those savings. Just like that dust
accumulating on the top of the fridge, it's out of sight,
out of mind and most importantly, out of your easy

6. Go digital. Don't ever again trip over the clutter of
your busy life and forget to pay a bill or a credit card
account on time. Use your mobile phone or computer to
send yourself reminders of payments due and thereby
avoid those dirty, rotten late fees!

7. Protect what you own. While you are changing your
clocks and checking your smoke detectors, check your
home or renter's insurance as well. Make sure you have
the necessary amount of coverage to avoid any major
out–of–pocket losses in the event of fire, theft or other

8. Consolidate. Make your next spring cleaning a much
easier job by consolidating your investment accounts
with one provider. Often, custodians will provide a
single statement on your accounts, even if the accounts
must be separately titled. Having a single source for
your investment information makes the job of monitoring
and rebalancing your accounts more efficient. Be
aware, however, that holding all your accounts with a
single custodian can limit the amount of SIPC or FDIC
coverage available to you.

9. Take a deep dive into your finances. When those
spring showers keep you cooped up for a long
afternoon, review all your checks, credit card
statements and debit transactions from the year before.
If you have online banking, you can usually export a
year's worth of transactions into a spreadsheet, which
you can then sort and classify. You'll see where you are
spending the most money and can therefore focus your
budgeting and cost–saving efforts accordingly. This
review should also provide the basis for a workable
budget going forward – a must for anyone wanting to
clean up his or her finances.

10. Get help from a CFP professional. Once your
financial information is in order, take it to a Certified
Financial Planner professional who can then develop a
comprehensive financial plan for getting you to your
lifetime goals. To find a CFP professional in your area,
go to
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