Whether you are a freelancer or a woman striving to take control of your money, getting organized with your money is the first and, often the most important, step. If this is a topic you want more information on, we will be covering it during week 1 of “4 Weeks to Your Strong Financial Foundation”
Consolidate your Accounts. Having your accounts in more than one place can be the enemy of understanding your current financial situation. Perhaps you have 401ks from previous jobs, IRAs from different banks or even more than one checking account. This is important for freelancers because the old 401ks or multiple IRAs lingering at other firms are not being monitored. Chances are you aren’t taking them into account when you are working on opening your new SEP or ROTH IRA. Women should focus on this as well because if they see all their accounts in one place, they see the power of more assets in one place and feel wealthier and more in control.
Pick one place for all your old 401k and numerous IRAs. My favorite places include T. Rowe Price, Vanguard and Fidelity.This means less paperwork, less papers to file, less envelopes to open and few statements to go through when completing your asset allocation analysis.
Use an Online Budgeting Tool. Many of us are on the bandwagon for mint.com. But why? Here is why I like it. A client recently came in to do a financial checkup. Normally we start with the status of her financial situation. Rather than spending 15-20 minutes going through the process, we just logged into her mint account and within seconds I saw how much she owed, the current value of her investments and her spending for the last few months. It was too easy to pass up. If you are a freelancer, I strongly encourage using Quicken or Quickbooks. In fact, many banks can help you buy Quickbooks and show you how to download your banking information to Quickbooks. For a list of other apps or online budgeting sites, see my previous post.
Carve Out 30 Minutes a Week. I am a huge fan of creating a money day every week. When do you pay your bills? Sunday night at 10pm? Once a month right before the bills are due? Have you ever paid late fees? Is getting your financial papers together a daunting task? It is such a simple concept but most of us are not implementing a regular way to deal with our finances. Find a time that works for you every week – same day, same time every week. Mine is Monday morning at 8am. Give yourself 30 minutes, but it will eventually take less than that. What do you do in that time?
Pay any bills that came in,Give yourself a weekly cash allowance,Check your balances, Online banking,Transfer money from checking to savings,Read a personal finance article (I like the Bucks blog in the NY Times: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/)Schedule one long-term goal (sign up for a class, make an appointment with an independent financial planner, look up a mutual fund).