We at Fool HQ did it again: We had a company-wide financial health day. As we did three years ago, we encouraged Fool employees to clear their professional decks in order to tackle personal financial tasks. We also held 10 classes — from estate planning to negotiating to retirement planning — and allowed Fools to schedule “office hours” with our HR guru, a local tax expert, or the resident Certified Financial Planner (a.k.a., yours truly). In the process, colleagues earned raffle tickets for all kinds of prizes, including a shredder, a safe, a rubber chicken and a whoopee cushion.
We acknowledge that The Motley Fool is a unique place, so we don’t expect that your place of business will be as keen on such an event. But you can take advantage of the biggest benefit of our daylong dough-nanza: work-free time, during normal business hours (when it’s easier to get ahold of businesses), to accomplish your highest monetary priorities. One colleague negotiated a $50 monthly discount on his cable/Internet package, which included a doubling of his Internet speed. Another created a spreadsheet of household expenses for the past year, filed insurance claims and checked her credit report. You can get this stuff done, too, whether it’s at your desk at home or at work.
I’ve written before about the payoff from taking a day off work to get financial stuff done. Our financial health day was inspired a few years ago by a column from New York Times writer Ron Lieber, who wrote about his own “day to tackle the financial to-do list.” Lieber has since written follow-up articles, recounting what he has accomplished during his tuneups. Besides the monetary benefits — which can amount to thousands of dollars, depending on what gets done — Lieber has emphasized the psychic benefit of crossing off items on the to-do list. In 2010, he wrote:
To be a modern American consumer is to be plagued by a never-ending, guilt-inducing stream of undone tasks. There’s the nagging feeling that you don’t have the most cost-effective plan with the cable company and the vague sense that the money in your bank account could be earning more interest. Perhaps that flexible spending account reimbursement keeps slipping down your list of things to do, and you know in the back of your mind that you could save some money by raising your insurance deductibles. Knocking these things off can get rid of the low-grade anxiety that results from the under-optimization of your financial life.
Would you like more cash, security, and peace of mind? Then play money hooky, remove distractions, and focus on your finances. Even if it costs you in lost wages or vacation days, getting your financial house in order will pay off in the long term. Begin by assembling your financial control center, gathering everything you need, and getting rid of what you don’t. Put on blinders; this day is for financial housekeeping only. Turn off the cell phone, ignore Facebook, and don’t check your email.
In the past, I’ve done my personal financial retreats at hotels. Yes, that costs money, but it was worth it; it limited the distractions and temptations (e.g., kids). And yes, I have a very understanding and supportive wife. Perhaps you have other options like a vacation home (or a friend or relative with such a thing), an under-used room in a business-owning pal’s office, your mother’s basement. Maybe even a coffee shop, if you can ignore all the shouts of “vente skinny spanky latte.”
Such a day doesn’t have to be just about the nitty and gritty. You can also map out your financial and career goals. Do it with your spouse and follow all the work with a little play.
Looking for ideas on what you can do? Check out the checklist below.
Have you ever taken a financial health day? Any tips? Anything you’d add to the list? Let us hear them in the comments section.
|Submit receipts for reimbursement (flexible spending, business expenses, insurance claims)|
|Meet with spouse/partner/spartner/Shatner about financial goals, duties, hopes and dreams|
|Sell stuff you no longer need on Craigslist or eBay|
|Cash in rewards points and gift cards before they expire|
|Create a “grab and go” box for emergencies|
|Clean out files and shred sensitive documents|
|Check your credit report|
|Optimize your participation in employer benefits|
|Create a budget|
|Find a better bank|
|Sign up for Mint, Quicken, or another financial tool|
|Build an emergency fund by having money automatically transferred to a savings account each month|
|Set up automatic bill payments|
|Identify three recurring expenses that could be reduced|
|Negotiate better rates for your cable, phone, or other recurring bills|
|Develop a strategy to get out of debt|
|Find out if you’re getting the best interest rate on your credit card|
|Shop for a credit card with better rewards|
|Refinance your mortgage|
|Insurance and estate planning|
|Evaluate your renters, homeowner, disability, and auto insurance policies (e.g., do you have too much or are you paying too much)|
|Determine if you need more or less life insurance|
|Update the beneficiaries on your accounts and insurance policies|
|Complete or update important legal documents (will, advance medical directive, etc.)|
|Inventory your possessions so you can file an accurate claim if necessary|
|Transfer your retirement account with a former employer to your current plan or to an IRA|
|Contribute to an IRA for 2012 before April 15|
|Adjust contributions to retirement accounts due to higher limits in 2013|
|Convert to a Roth IRA if prudent|
|Sign up for college savings plan(s)|
|Review investments and asset allocation|
|Evaluate your mutual funds|
|Calculate whether you’re saving enough for, or spending too much in, retirement|
|Calculate whether you’re saving enough for other goals|
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