By: Colleen Cardarella
Last year I shifted my category of focus to my financial life for a while.
I knew I wanted to improve this area of my life. My financial score was in the above average range, but I was wrestling with something when I answered the financial questions on the Intra-Spect Assessment. I was saying to myself as I answered that section, “I could be doing better here…and it really wouldn’t be difficult…I just need to spend the time on it.”
So, for the next several months I worked on this area of my life. I raised my financial score 20 points to an extraordinary score. Nothing I did to raise my score involved making more money. Everything had to do with organizing, planning and managing my financial life better.
Step 1: Assessing and Consolidating
My husband and I had never finished merging our financial lives after our wedding. We went through all our banking information to consolidate accounts and fully understand everything we had as a couple.
Step 2: Setting Retirement Goals and Plans
With consolidated accounts, we started looking at our retirement accounts from a joint perspective. We discussed our retirement goals and had an analysis done by a professional to make sure we were on track to reach those goals. Simply knowing we had this plan and how we could meet it provided incredible peace of mind and contributed to my growth in this category.
Step 3: Finding a Good Accountant
I no longer do my taxes on my own. I hired a good accountant who truly helps identify wiser ways to manage our money.
Step 4: Getting All Those Affairs You Don’t Want to Deal With in Order
I don’t know anyone who enjoys writing a will, setting up a healthcare proxy, or thinking through all the paperwork you should have in place in the event of a terrible illness or tragedy. I dreaded this process, but received some advice that made it easier. Here it is…
You don’t have to spend a ton of time and legal fees setting this up the first time. Go on a site like LegalZoom and just get it done. Then you’ll have something in place. You can go back and do a more detailed form with an attorney after that, but at least get something in place.
Step 5: Getting your Health and Fitness Checked
Yes, getting all those healthcare checkups added to my financial score. Why? Because putting off everything from dentist appointments, to eye exams to more intense medical checkups leaves a big question in your mind. What if?
What if I am going to need that big medical expense in the near future. If you’re thinking something might be wrong, or you have a family medical history of something hereditary – get it checked out. That doesn’t mean you won’t still have health problems, but you’ll remove a lot of questions and concerns that can add financial stress.
Step 6: Organizing Financial Systems
Whatever system you want to use, set it up. This includes electronic bill pay and personal finance software, or even a filing system. Pick the system that works for you and set it up.
Step 7: Reviewing Recurring Expenses and Making Sure You’re Not Overpaying
The cable company charged me a monthly fee for their modem, so I bought my own. We stopped into the store where we bought our phones and asked if there were any savings we were not taking advantage of and they gave us a better rate on our plan. We talked to the credit card company and got a higher number of reward points per dollar. I could go on and on with examples here. These are all little things. But for me, knowing I really understand what’s on my monthly bill, versus just paying it was a worthwhile exercise.
There’s one more step I did not do during that time. But it needs to be added to this list. Checking your credit. It’s easy. Despite all the companies that want to sell you your credit score, it is free. You can request a credit report from any reporting agency for free once a year. With 3 major companies out there, you can request all 3 at once, or you can spread it out over the year – asking 1 credit company every 4 months.
So, I found there was a lot more making up my financial score than my income. Now with all those financial affairs in order, I can focus on the income part of my financial life… Which is much more fun than writing a will, or setting up Quickbooks, or getting a checkup.