The Benefits of a Financial Tune-up

These annual financial check-ins are quick, easy, and will save you money

02/05/2015

Let’s face it: Monitoring your financial situation and examining statements and payments isn’t always what you want to spend your time doing, especially if you’re a busy bee.
 
“With kids, family obligations, and 200 TV and cable channels all competing for our attention, it is hard to be proactive about finances,” says Mark LaSpisa, certified financial planner with Vermillion Financial in South Barrington, Ill. 
 
The thing is, it doesn’t take long to get down to business. A few simple phone calls are all it takes to review the ins and outs of your finances and hopefully make some changes for the better. Whether you want to determine a more cost-effective phone or cable plan or find out how to earn more interest in your bank account, experts recommend performing a financial tune-up each year to re-evaluate your current financial picture.
 
Take Ryan Schneider, who runs the credit card business for Capital One, for example. All he did was call his cable company and, in turn, saved extra money while still enjoying his plan.
 
“I redid the cable package, got every channel that I wanted and got rid of some I hadn’t used in a year, and saved about $50 a month,” he said.
 
Schneider also consolidated some of his brokerage accounts, steering away from one that had higher fees. By doing this simple task, he saved another $500 a year — and it didn’t take much of his time at all.
 
“It was totally worth it, and it took an afternoon. I think it was raining out,” Schneider said.
 
Here are a number of other ways you can perform a financial tune-up. The best news: Each of these tasks will only take you 30 minutes or less (and most of them about five minutes):
 
Save 1% more from your paycheck - Money removed from each paycheck is money you never see — and that makes it money you’ll never miss. While one percent won’t drastically change the amount of money deducted, over time, the savings could be substantial — even up to six figures in extra savings.
 
Make an extra mortgage payment - If you can, making that extra annual payment means you’ll be able to pay your house off sooner. In fact, it can reduce a 30-year mortgage loan down to 22 years. Think about all the interest you’ll save by chopping off seven years of payments. Need even more incentive? It only takes a few minutes to set up an automated payment or write a check at the end of each year.
 
Increase high-interest student loan payments - Once you can pay off your student debt from the loans that are high in interest, you’ll reap higher savings and put more towards saving for retirement.
 
“When it comes to student loans, it’s generally best to increase payments on high-interest private loans and pay those off first. With low-interest federal loans, you might want to maximize your retirement savings (especially if there’s a match involved) before paying more than the minimum on the low-interest loans,” says Jennifer Saranow Schultz in a New York Times blog post.
 
Get a lower-interest credit card - Call up your current credit card company and ask for a lower rate, or consider changing credit cards. You can research deals online that may offer a better rate; just be sure to look out for balance transfer fees.
 
Read your tax return - Or have your accountant review it with you. This will help you understand and learn about potential tax breaks that you may currently be missing.
 
Call cable, wireless and landline companies - And ask about better deals. You might be surprised at the answer — you may be able to pay less without losing service. And when it comes to the wireless industry specifically, prices fall all the time. Also, consider moving to an alternative company if they have better rates and deeper discounts.
 
Spend your gift cards - Many expire, and even if they don’t, the longer you keep them around, the more of a chance you’ll lose them.
 
Review your life insurance - Depending on your life’s activities — like if you’ve had another child or if you got a raise in your salary — your coverage may be insufficient or you may qualify for a lower rate.
 
These are just some of the ways in which you can perform an annual financial tune-up, but no matter what you do, keep heading in the right direction.

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