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Monday Morning Money Moves

Having a hard time snapping out of weekend mode? Make the most of your Monday by crossing these nine financial "to do's" off your list.

Protect your good name
What's more important than protecting your good reputation? How about that pristine credit record you've worked hard to keep clean? Your credit history determines what interest rates you pay on credit cards and a mortgage, and even how much you'll shell out for auto or homeowner's insurance in some states.

Sadly, identity theft is becoming more common, with crooks fraudulently running up credit card or cell phone accounts, passing bad checks, or getting a loan in someone else's name. With a quick phone call and a trip to the Xerox machine, you can create a cocoon around your credit file while the coffee brews in the break room.

First, thwart the old-fashioned crime of wallet snatching by photocopying the contents of your wallet -- all cards, back and front -- and highlighting the customer service numbers. While you're at it, make a note in your checkbook to eliminate personal information (such as your Social Security number) from your checks the next time you need to order a batch.

Give trash-picking thieves less fodder by taking your name off the junk mail lists. Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers -- pure gold to ID thieves -- by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). If your boss asks questions, mention that the call was toll-free.

Take a pay cut
Yup, you read that right. Successful saving requires giving yourself less money to spend.

As you wait for your computer to boot up, pick a dollar amount you can bear to part with every paycheck. Write it down, and tape it on the inside of your desk drawer as a constant reminder of your newfound savings resolve.

If you bank online or can get to your local branch during lunchtime, automate the savings process. As they say, out of sight, out of mind. Set up a savings account that's separate from your regular checking account, and have a portion of each paycheck automatically directed into it.

While you're at it, make your money work harder. Supersize your balance with an account that earns the most interest. For short-term savings -- any money you'll need in the next five years or so -- look into the rates on money market accounts and certificates of deposit. Every little bit helps.

Lean on your employer
Are you sampling the goodies offered by your employer? And, no, we're not talking about the box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts Cecil picks up for everyone each Friday morning. Corner your human resources manager and set up an appointment for this afternoon. Your agenda items include:

Benefits: Does the company offer a medical flex spending account? It allows you to put away pre-tax dollars to pay for everything from child care to contact lenses to visits to the chiropractor.

Insurance: Many companies get group discounts on disability, long-term care, and even pet insurance.

Beneficiaries: Is the beneficiary information you filled out the day you started still up-to-date? It might have made you chuckle to fill in your cat's name when you started your job, but your current wife and children may not find the joke very funny.

Retirement: Up the contribution you make to your retirement plan (401(k), 403(b), or whatever Mr. Boss provides). At the very least make sure you contribute enough to get the company match. All you need to do so is a contribution change form. And while you're at it, see whether you are making the most of retirement accounts outside of your work plan. (Here's a checklist of ways to save for the future.)

Now congratulate yourself on a full and productive day at the office.

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