By Sam Shumway
AARP Wyoming State Director
We’ve sang Auld Lang Syne, and the final college bowl games are over, which means it is time to examine New Year’s resolutions for 2018. For many, that means getting their financial house in order and AARP offers a few simple financial practices to make your improve your financial health in 2018.
One of the most important steps is to create a formal budget and stick to it. Creating a weekly or monthly budget will allow you to track your spending and adjust based on needs. By properly monitoring your spending, you may find ways to cut back and transfer that money to savings. Use the AARP Financial Calculator to help you breakdown costs and identify areas where you can save more.
Second, develop a list of all accounts and income sources. This list should include account numbers, names, passwords and any other information. You should store a copy in a secure place and give the list to a trusted family member or friend so that in case of a personal health change, your loved ones can help you access your money.
Next, closely monitor all accounts regularly to make sure that automatic deposits (pensions, social security and annuities) are being made on time and correctly. Mistakes can be made, and you don’t want to lose out on any money you are owed. Also, if you use online banking and automated bill paying, you can check to make sure that important bills-such as for utilities-have been made. It is also important to closely monitor your accounts for unusual payments or withdrawals to make sure that you are not a victim of fraud.
Using a password program is a smart way to prevent yourself from falling victim to being hacked, especially if you bank online. A password protector or manager is an encrypted program that will generate, retrieve, and keep track of passwords and financial numbers across all your accounts – from credit cards, passwords, to pin numbers to online sites. It will also give you a variety of secure passwords as people typically only use one password or similar ones for all their accounts. With this program you will only have to remember one password that will unlock your password vault when you wish to sign on to a particular site.
Finally, for those of you who are considering investing or changing investment advisors, AARP has also recently developed a free online tool called the AARP Interview and Investor tool in conjunction with the North American Securities Administration Association. It walks the user through a short series of suggested questions to ask a financial professional as part of the process of making the hiring decision. Included are questions regarding the advisor’s qualifications, methods of compensation, and whether the advisor is required to act as a fiduciary – that is, whether the advisor is obligated to act in the investor’s best interest.
The web-enabled tool is free and available to anyone – AARP membership is not required. Access it at: www.aarp.org/InterviewAnAdvisor.
With a few easy changes 2018 can be a year of improved financial habits. Happy New Year!