It’s never too late to do the right thing when it comes to Financial matters, and a great time to start is in the New Year. With a simple investment of a few minutes of time, you will be less vulnerable to identity theft and fraud, see improvements in your overall financial picture and set the stage for a more comfortable financial future. Here are some simple tips to help you start the New Year right:
Engage Protections – RESET PASSWORDS
This is perhaps the most neglected and easiest way to secure your personal information and is essential for sites that store or use your financial data, such as Amazon, auto-pay services, Credit card companies, etc. Don’t take it for granted that because you haven’t been victimized yet, you’re safe; especially if you’re like millions of Americans who use the same password for multiple accounts. Personalize your password for every login to safeguard what belongs to you! You’ll be glad you did.
Come up with a pattern that makes sense and that you will remember. Try adding or deleting a number, symbol or letter to your existing passwords. Set a cell phone alarm or mark your calendar as a reminder to make these changes at regular intervals – say every 2-3 months. If you’re like me and prefer to allow an app to manage your passwords, there are great free ones available (just search the App Store on your cell phone), as well as some paid ones that offer a few more options.
Clean Up The Clutter – START NEW HABITS
There is more contributing to a thieves success than bank protocols, credit card company software, store security, and how you handle your debit and credit cards. Your personal habits may make you vulnerable and be the potential avenue for a crook to discover the necessary information they needs to steal your stuff.
Wallets and purses are a dream target for criminals. Women are notorious for carrying risky paperwork in their wallets, purses and cars. Incorporate a minimalists’ world view by down-sizing what you carry on a daily basis. Bring only the necessary bank card for a particular shopping trip. Men should carry their wallets in a front or zippered pocket. Clear out all sales receipts and file immediately following a shopping trip.
And when it comes to the trash, what valuable resources are you simply sending to the curb without a second thought? Crooks have been known to rifle through the garbage looking for cancelled checks, receipts, credit card applications and statements that have enough information to clone your identity. Any paper, regardless of its original purpose, that contains more than your address needs to be reviewed. Scan those that may be required at a later date and shred everything before discarding.
Know Where You Stand – VIEW CREDIT REPORTS
Begin 2018 by requesting free access to your credit reports. The information collected by these institutions affects whether you can get a car loan, mortgage, insurance, rent an apartment, cell phone or even a job; and how much you will pay for that privilege. Examine your reports thoroughly for inaccuracies and contact the specific agency, if you discover inaccuracies or have questions regarding the Report.
While some financial institutions may provide a credit report and/or score for their customers, there is only one government authorized location to secure copies from ALL three major reporting agencies at a central place. It’s as easy as visiting annualcreditreport.com, calling 877.322.8228 or filling out and mailing the Annual Credit Report Request found here. If you haven’t done so already, DO IT NOW!
Stand guard against identity theft by making it a habit to regularly check your report.
Look Towards the Future – REVIEW INVESTMENTS, INSURANCE & WILLS
Over the course of your lifetime, where and how you live is likely to change as you move through different stages such as college, parenting, divorce, unemployment, etc. and on to retirement. One often neglected area are those things created, perhaps years ago, for long-term gain such as investments, insurance, beneficiaries, etc. Your financial security is dependent on decisions that you make along the way.
Investments are not meant to be initiated and then left alone. What once may have been financially out of reach may now be the move you should make. Review retirement and investment accounts with a professional to plan a strategy to make the right moves when the market moves up or down. Aggressive choices are easier for younger people as their opportunity for employment advancement is high. Moving closer to retirement age, consider more conservative options to continue to grow your portfolio.
No matter what your age, don’t neglect being prepared for the worse case scenario. Examine your estate plan and make sure insurance policies are up to date and that the right beneficiaries are in place. Review your will or begin with a simple estate plan and make an appointment to speak with an attorney to finalize the details.
Begin a resolution to start each new year focusing on what changes you need to make to secure your future. These are just some of the basics to help you get you started. One thing I know for sure, the peace of mind you will gain is immeasurable.
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