Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's a New Year. Here's a few things to check on.

A new year often brings hope. Hope that we can start over, reset our lives, lose weight, make more money and go after those goals we missed last year. With a Presidential election occurring, this year should have lots of pomposity, theater, bickering and laughs.

Fresh starts are great. 2012 hopefully is off to a good start for you. There are a few things you will want to look at and get out of the way so you can get busy achieving your goals for this year.

1. Review your current insurance policies.

   Did you remodel last year? Did you have a new baby? Have a break up? Find your soul mate? Sell the property? You may need to update your homeowners, auto, life, health and other insurance policies to reflect these changes. It often is very simple to do and while you have the documentation ready (receipts, marriage certificate, divorce decree, babies ssn, etc.) you should make the call or e-mail you insurance agent.

2.  Make sure your insurance agent, employer, and friends have your current contact info.

     If you have moved during the year, changed phone numbers, e-mail address, etc., you should update your insurance agent so they can have the correct info should you need to file a claim. Your employer will need to have it before they can print your w-2's, 1099's etc. so that they are correct. It can often take several days to correct them once they are printed. Make sure they have this info ahead of time.

3. Make an appointment with your Lawyer or Estate Planner.

     No matter your age, you should review your will, trust, powers of attorney, etc. at least once a year. If there have been no changes ( marriage, divorce, births, deaths, grandchildren, property sales, etc.) then you can just smile and catch up with your professional for a few moments. If there are changes, you should make them as soon as possible after the event or at least review them on a yearly basis.

     In some cases, wills and trusts have not been updated in years. Everyone you intended to leave stuff to and handle your final arrangements may have gone to prepare your room ahead of time. You may have a new family member that might be excluded from the will since they were not part of the family when it was written. The other Trustees may have moved, passed on, or changed their status within the trust. Update these important documents now so that everyone has their part clearly defined when you move on.

4. Shred old documents once they are updated and your Estate Planner or Lawyer has given you the green light to do so.

     The confusion that occurs when your heirs find 10 versions of granny's will, many of them undated. In one, Jenny gets the good china, in another, Martha gets the plates, Jenny the tableware. Granny never did like Jenny's husband. Make your wishes clear.

5.  Get your receipts, year end statements and account balances ready for your tax person.

     I keep a file all year long and as I do things that could or will be needed for my taxes, I put the documents and receipts in a plain large brown envelope which already has the year and "Tax Info" written on it. It save me from having to hunt for stuff at the last moment.

6. Review your savings, ROTH IRA, traditional IRA, 401K, and other investments. Talk to your financial planner.

     Adjust your contributions. Have your investment goals changed? Are the investments you have chosen still a good fit for you? Is there something else you could or should be doing? Can you put a little more in your reserve account for emergencies?

Now is a good time to look at all these things and any others you feel the need to. Get it out of the way now and you can focus on your other goals for the rest of the year. Check with your employer to see when certain wage and tax forms will be available to you. Most of the time it will be after January 31st, but they could need more time to correct errors with the CPA or it could be earlier depending on where you live.  Call upon the appropriate professionals and make appointments as their schedules can fill up quick during tax season.

Here's to a great new re-start!