I see lots of people that don’t pay nearly enough attention to their financial lives. It is important to monitor all of the things that could affect your credit, retirement, interest rates, expenses, etc. If you want to achieve early retirement or just ensure you are being efficient with your finances, you should use a financial checklist to make sure you are reviewing items on at least an annual basis. Most people probably already do many of the items on the list, but I thought it would be helpful to compile a more complete financial checklist for reference.
Organization is a key part of any early retirement plan, so consider this a check-up on your organization skills. I use a file cabinet, electronic back-up for some items, and a fire-proof safe for the critical documents like birth certificates/passports/etc. Planning ahead can save you quite a bit of trouble if you have to do an insurance claim or need to dispute a credit card transaction (also recommend saving your pictures in a safe place- online backup keeps me form worrying a hard drive crash will lose baby, wedding, and vacation pictures that could not be replaced). Good records make your life easier. Below are a few categories of items that I have come up with to help keep you on track financially.
Need to keep track of these items:
- Statements (Bank, Investment, Retirement, etc)
- Social Security statement (can get online)
- Credit card information and statements (keep unused cards in a safe place)
- Any documents relating to other consumer debt (auto, personal, student loans, etc)
- Tax returns and back-up documents
- Donation receipts (I start a tax folder each year and start compiling as I get them)
- Key health and life insurance documents
- Utility statements- you can purge anything over 24 months old
- Receipts for important or large purchases (helps for returns, warranties, etc) You can bet I will be keeping a copy of my solar purchase contract! I keep an expandable folder by year.
- Travel Reward balances– How can you redeem miles if you forget you have them?
- Previous work related documents (salary letters, dates of employment, some retirement plan documents, etc)- these may be needed for reference later
To be reviewed for cost annually:
- Cable/internet/phone agreements- try to get to the retention department to ensure a deal better than standard rates
- Car insurance- need to price compare, watch for errors, and monitor for any increase in rates (this would apply to any other vehicles as well)
- Home insurance- same as car insurance
- Health and life insurance (parts not offered through work, but you could still compare rates)
- Bank accounts- are you being charged fees or for services you don’t use?
- Interest rate on mortgage (possible re-fi as your credit gets better or more equity to avoid PMI)
- Interest rate on savings accounts (compare to other available offers)
- Any annual subscriptions or memberships (magazines, gym memberships, home repair agreements, pest control, credit monitoring, etc)- these may escalate and cost you a lot more if you ignore them. If you don’t use your Costco membership, cancel it!
Items to keep on a flash drive in a safe place like a safe deposit box:
- Last 5 years of tax returns
- List of accounts for reference (don’t keep too much information, just a basic list)
- Annual credit reports (or any that you have pulled)
- Resume- starting from scratch is not fun!
Other items to keep organized (good), locked up in a safe (better), or in a safe deposit box (best):
- Birth certificate (and for spouse and dependents)
- Social Security card (and for spouse and dependents)
- Passport (and for spouse and dependents)
- Mortgage documents
- Auto documents (pink slip and purchase information)
- Homeowner’s insurance documents
- Any other insurance policies (life, disability, long term care, etc)
- Any wills or trusts
I hope this financial checklist guide is helpful for you to identify areas where you might be able to optimize expenses or plan ahead and avoid having unnecessary costs. I will update this over time as I think of new items.
Anything missing from my list you would add? Please let me know.