Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Get your financial house in order

By David Burton
University Extension

After spending big during the holidays, many people make getting their financial house in order a top New Year’s resolution.

“Any day is a good day to make financial resolutions,” said Janet LaFon, family financial education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

There are, however, several key areas in financial planning, like keeping financial records, starting a savings plan and getting a will done, that people need to remember all year according to LaFon.

“One of the best things a person can do is set up a home filing system for financial records. This will make it easier to find your financial information when it is needed. If you already have a system, spend time cleaning out items no longer needed,” said LaFon.

The New Year is also a good time to review beneficiaries named in insurance policies and wills to make sure those named are still the people you want to include.

“If you do not already have a will or some other form of estate plan, now would be a good time to get one in place. If you do have a will or plan, review it to make sure it still reflects your wishes,” said LaFon.

Starting or adding to a savings program is another financial resolution a person should try to keep. LaFon recommends that instead of waiting until the end of the month, you should pay yourself first.

“It doesn’t have to be large amounts. You’ll be surprised how quickly even small amounts can add up. The key is doing it on a regular basis,” said LaFon.

Credit card debt is a critical area for many, especially after the holidays. LaFon recommends developing a plan for getting bills paid and concentrating on paying off credit cards with the highest rates of interest first.

“As you’re paying off the current bills, think about how you use credit cards and decide if changes are needed. If your answer is yes, then cut up the plastic,” said LaFon.

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