Six Ways to Help Get Financially Organized

How to Get Financially Organized

Six Ways to Help Get Financially Organized

 Ashley Bebeau, CFP®, Wealth Advisor & Senior Financial Planner

December 28, 2016

With so much going on in our lives, it’s easy to let our finances get disorganized. So as long as you have the basics in place – bills paid, tax documents filed, checkbook balanced – you’ll be fine, right? You may want to think again.

Methods and tools for staying organized are evolving and security has become more of an issue. Furthermore, you may know where everything is, but do you have a system in place for your spouse, child or parent to easily take over if something were to happen to you? (Read more about suddenly taking over family finances in Managing Wealth After the Loss of a Spouse.)

You deserve an organized financial life that allows you to be sure everything has been accounted for. Here are six suggestions for getting your ducks in a row and your financial life organized.

1.  Understand your spending using a budgeting tool

It is important to know where your money is going so that you can take control of it and reach your goals. Budgeting has come a long way from balancing a checkbook or keeping a spreadsheet. There are a number of budgeting tools that connect directly to your bank accounts and automatically categorize your transactions.

Budgeting is an integral part of a long-term financial plan. For example, we use your annual spending when running cash-flow projections for you. By doing so, we are empowering you with the framework to understand how your spending now, may impact your financial situation later.

2.  Store your passwords using a cloud-based password manager

Hackers are using technology to collect information about you that is easily available on the internet. By adding complexity to a hacker’s mission, you may divert them to an easier target. (Read Let the Yahoo hack be your cybersecurity lesson.) It is strongly recommended to use randomly generated passwords for your online logins. You may think it’s impossible to remember all of those complex passwords. We agree!

There are a number of cloud-based password managers that allow you to randomly generate passwords and store your credentials securely. You can also enable two-factor authentication to access your passwords for an added layer of security. And perhaps just as valuable, having all of your logins in one place makes it easy for you to share everything with your spouse or children, if necessary. (Learn about other suggested Online Security Tips.)

3.  Store your sensitive documents using cloud-based storage or an external hard drive

If you conduct an online search of “How to get financially organized,” most sources will tell you to keep an organized filing system of documents. That may have been the best solution 15 or 20 years ago, but there are arguably more secure solutions accessible today. Cloud-based storage systems and external hard drives are two great examples.

Having your documents electronically filed helps you easily share with other people, eliminates the paper trail, and clears the clutter of your home or office. (Arvig explains more about the advantages and disadvantages of Cloud storage vs external hard drives.)

4.  Consolidate your assets for more effective management

When a client comes to us with multiple investment accounts and positions, we ask ourselves, “how can we make the investments better work together?” Consolidating investments, when done wisely, can help paint a clearer picture of your investment strategy, and may offer you simplicity, convenience and more effective management. When consolidating, we consider your goals, exposure, risk and tax efficiencies. One example is retirement account rollovers, which can be valuable if one account offers lower fees or a larger range of investment options. (Read more about aligning portfolios with goals in Managing Wealth from the Sale of the Family Business)

5.  Establish estate planning documents and make sure accounts and assets are properly titled

Having estate planning documents is important for a number of reasons: To carry out your wishes if something were to happen, to help avoid family conflicts or legal challenges and to keep your wealth in the family. Consider establishing or revisiting your must-have estate documents: Wills (and guardianship provisions), powers of attorney (POA) for both health care and finance, beneficiary designations and trusts, where appropriate. (Read more about proper execution of estate documents in Managing Wealth After the Loss of a Spouse.)

6.  Run your credit report at least annually

Let’s assume you have a long credit history, make timely credit payments and have a low balance relative to the amount of credit available. All signs of a good credit score. Do you need to run your credit report?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five credit reports contain material errors. A single error can significantly impact your (otherwise healthy) score and can potentially hold you back from taking out a loan or securing a new job. Under the law, the only website authorized to fulfill requests for free annual credit reports is

Running your credit allows you an in-depth analysis of your credit history and is helpful for taking control of your finances. (Read more about Properly Maintaining a Healthy Credit Score.)

You may feel financially organized, but it is a best practice to regularly revisit the methods and tools you use to stay organized. As technology is evolving, it is important to keep your information secure, and have a system in place in case someone ever has to take over managing your or your family’s finances.


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