Tackling the Dreaded Details

Peace of mind is priceless. Just knowing that financial measures are in place for those "what-if" scenarios can let you enjoy your time with the kids and the dog and, yes, even at the office.

If only that "to do" list -- like that pile of paperwork for disability insurance or the phone number for the estate lawyer your brother recommended -- weren't so daunting. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

You can do anything for 15 minutes
Domestic organization goddess Marla Cilley -- the FlyLady -- coaches the 90,000-plus subscribers to her site to spend just 15 minutes a day dealing with life's clutter, whether it's laundry, a dirty sink, or some other undesirable task piled up in a corner. "Anyone can do anything for only 15 minutes, even if you have to break it down into five-minute segments," she says. Give it a try. Set the timer and spend 15 minutes filing those brokerage statements. Update the information in Quicken (and hit "save"). Buckle down and power-write the column that is due in an hour. (That last one may not apply to a lot of you out there.)

You can do a lot of things in less than 15 minutes
A lot of money management tasks take much less than 15 minutes to complete. Having trouble making it to the bank every other week? Setting up an automatic paycheck deposit is a breeze. Simply get the paperwork from your payroll or HR department, fill it out, and cross "deposit paycheck" off your list. While you're at it, why not set up an automatic monthly transfer into your emergency savings account and IRA? Trust me, it takes less than three minutes to do if you bank online, and with the money taken out of your account, you won't be tempted to blow it.

Be realistic
How long does it really take you to input receipts into Quicken, check your credit card and bank statements for accuracy, or review and file the monthly brokerage and mutual fund statements? Time yourself doing these monthly chores. Knowing the irrefutable ticks of the clock that a chore takes 23 minutes to complete makes it easier to schedule. And you won't waste three hours and 47 minutes of your packed schedule dreading it. Similarly, if you find that you don't have time to follow a portfolio of 20 stocks, then simplify. In the end, you may not really be sacrificing returns by choosing to put your money in a simple index mutual fund instead.

Spend time finding a trusted helper
Our TMF Money Advisor membership director decided that he and his wife could paint the entire exterior of their home in their spare time. (By the way, they have two toddlers.) After getting three weekends of work in, they are one-quarter of the way done painting the front of the house. Sometimes it pays to find a trusted pro to get the job done. A little legwork up front can save hours of hand-wringing and avoidance and a less-than-satisfactory retirement or paint job.

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