Welcome to week 1 of MarketWatch’s Spring Clean Your Finances! We’re excited to have you along on this journey with us, and we hope that at the end of the four weeks, you feel more secure and confident about managing your finances all year long. You might even save some money.
We’ll be posting on Instagram and in our newsletter Personal Finance Daily (sign up here), so follow along with us, and tag us on social media @MarketWatch to show us how you’re doing.
The first week of this challenge is all about the basics.
We’re starting slowly, but even these easy steps can help set you up for success.
Your first task:
Log in to all of your financial accounts
Do you know exactly how much you have in the bank, and in any investment or retirement accounts?
You may have forgotten some of your passwords, or even that you’d opened an account at all. This is the perfect time to figure out your starting point, and spend a few minutes organizing your financial picture.
Research has shown that the most likely time for people to check their financial accounts is when they are expecting good news. But coming to terms with our anxiety and checking our full financial picture, even when it may not be as rosy as we’d like, helps us stay on track, and avoid any fees we might incur for keeping our accounts at low or negative balances.
Develop a plan for checking your accounts more regularly going forward. Pick a time, and write it on your calendar. Can you check all of your accounts at least once a week? That’s a great place to start.
This is great preparation for your second task:
Review your retirement accounts, if you have them
Are you aware of any retirement services your employer offers, such as a company match for money that you contribute? More than 97 million Americans have access to an employee-sponsored retirement plan, so there’s a strong likelihood you are one of them.
Are you contributing enough now to get your company’s full match? If not, consider amping up your contribution, if you can fit that into your current budget.
If you’re not sure how much you should be contributing, plug your current contribution into a retirement calculator, like this one from MarketWatch. That should help you a lot.
Once you’ve done this, relax! Then find a time when you can do your third task:
Evaluate all of your subscriptions
Do you subscribe to multiple streaming services? How about membership clubs, like gyms? Did you once sign up for a professional service like a software product, and completely forget about it?
Take a look at your most recent credit-card statement, which should only take a few minutes. Are there any recurring charges you don’t recognize?
Spend just a few minutes to decide if there are any you no longer use and want to ditch.
There are even some services that will negotiate your bills for you (for a price.) If you’d like to keep some of your subscriptions but wonder if you can lower the price, either give those companies a call yourself, or outsource it to a company like BillShark, TrueBill or BillFixers.
You’re making great progress!
Finally, make a plan to check your finances more regularly.
Choose a time of day to keep checking in and looking at your balances. It’s easy to avoid your money, but once you get some momentum, it’ll become less scary to check in once a week or once a month.
Ready to go? We’ll be here to help you throughout the week, so if you have any questions on how to complete these tasks, reach out to us on Twitter or Instagram at @MarketWatch.
We’ll be checking in to see how it’s going!
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