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A Financial Checkup for the New Year

Each item on this list was discussed in detail in Your Financial-Planning Checkup. Feel free to print it out and check off the items as you complete them.
  1. Diagnose your spending habits

    • Using a spreadsheet and your bank account and credit card statements, record and analyze your expenses from the last three to six months. This is time-consuming but not difficult. You need to find out where your money goes before you can improve your financial health.

    • Keep receipts for all cash purchases. Put them in a jar and calculate the total at the end of the month.

    • Find out how much you could add to your retirement by curbing expenses today.

    • Establish a budget and a means of tracking it.

  2. Regulate your retirement

    • Make sure you're saving enough to meet your retirement goals.

    • Make any "catch-up" contributions to your 401(k) before December 31. The deadline for year 2000 contributions to IRAs is not until April 16, 2001, but the sooner you invest, the better.

    • Find out which type of IRA, Regular or Roth IRA, is best for you.

  3. Inspect your insurance

    • Determining whether you have enough life insurance to take care of your family.

    • Find out if your employer provides disability insurance, and then analyze whether it's enough.

    • If your car is three or more years old, increase the deductible on the collision and comprehensive coverage to $500 or $1,000 to obtain a lower premium on your car insurance.

  4. Investigate your debt

    • If the balance on your credit card is large enough that you cannot pay it off at the end of the month, make eliminating that debt your top financial priority.

    • Check your credit history by order a report from Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union. Or, you could order a report from all three in one easy step at

  5. Evaluate Your Bank

    • Add up your ATM charges to see how much that convenience has cost you over the past year.

    • Determine whether you're getting the most bank for your buck.

  6. Explore Your Investments

    • Evaluate your portfolio's performance by matching it against the performance of the benchmark of your choice.

    • Compare the fees and features of several discount brokers to determine which one is best for you.
Congratulations! If you've concluded this checklist, give yourself a clean bill of financial health (and give yourself a helping of your favorite dessert -- you deserve it)!

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