Personal Money Management Tips in Three Hours or Less
Cut the Clutter
Invest a few hours in getting rid of the financial detritus that’s filling your filing cabinet, and you’ll take a psychic load off your shoulders, says therapist Debbie Stanley, author of Organize Your Home in No Time ($17, amazon.com).
The Only Stuff You Need to Keep
Document: Tax returns
How long to keep: Forever
Document: Tax backup (receipts, W-2s, statements, etc.)
How long to keep: Six years (the IRS has up to this amount of time to audit returns)
Document: Year-end investment statements
How long to keep: Until six years after you sell, for proof of gains and losses for taxes
Document: Pay stubs
How long to keep: Until you get your W-2 in January
Document: Receipts for home improvements
How long to keep: Until six years after you sell the home, for tax purposes
Document: Receipts for big-ticket purchases
How long to keep: As long as you own the item, for warranty and insurance claims
Protect Your Legacy
Who wants to spend an afternoon thinking about their mortality? No one, which is why 55 percent of Americans don’t have a will, according to FindLaw.com. “But without one, you could be leaving disposition of your assets and the guardianship of your minor children to a court,” says New Jersey attorney Gerard Brew. If you have young kids and/or significant assets, you should really consult a lawyer. For now, however, download Quicken’s WillMaker Plus ($35) from nolo.com. The program takes only 30 minutes to complete. But count on the discussion with your spouse over whether his mother or your brother would make a better guardian to add some time.
Get on Recruiters’ Radars
Today 89 percent of firms use social media to find candidates, according to Jobvite. Not seeking work? “The best time to create a digital footprint is before you’re looking,” says Miriam Salpeter, author of Social Networking for Career Success ($19, amazon.com). That way your next move can find you.
How to do it: If you’re not yet on LinkedIn, the site most companies use to recruit, start by uploading your résumé. Include your entire job history, since profiles with multiple jobs are 12 times more likely to be viewed than those with one; add a photo, and your click-through rate increases by seven times. Be sure to use keywords in your summary that are important in your industry (hint: check job ads to find them) so that you’ll come up in searches.
Juice Your Credit Score
An excellent score—740 and up—is money in your pocket: On a 30-year fixed-rate $250,000 mortgage, someone with a score of 620 would pay about $240 more per month than someone with a 760. While a good score is earned over time, you can do these two things to quickly boost your number:
Step one: Get a free credit report from each of the three agencies that track consumer credit at annualcreditreport.com. Read them carefully looking for mistakes. Any errors—about one in five have them, the Policy & Economic Research Council estimates—could be costing you points. Report any problems to each of the bureaus and the lender (there’s a form at each website).
Step two: Call your card issuer to ask for an increase in your credit limit, since how much you tap of your available credit is a key factor in determining your score. The more unused credit you have, the better you look—ideally, you should use no more than 10 percent of what’s available to you.