For many Americans, personal finances are a source of stress. The FINRA Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study found that 53% of adults said that thinking about their finances makes them anxious. That percentage is even higher for young adults ages 18 to 34 – 63%.
It’s understandable that money matters can cause stress, especially if you don’t feel like you have a good handle on your finances. But there are some simple steps you can take to improve your finances and make managing your money a little easier – which can help reduce some of your stress. The best part is that you can tackle each of these financial tasks in 30 minutes or less.
Set up credit card and bank account alerts
It’s important to keep tabs on your credit card and bank accounts, but remembering to do so isn’t always so easy. That’s why it’s smart to set up automatic alerts to be notified of activity on your accounts. Spending just a few minutes to set up these alerts can go a long way to helping you stay on top of your finances.
Log onto your online bank and credit card accounts and look for an “Alerts” tab, “Account Services” or “Settings.” Typically, you can choose to get email or text message alerts about activity on your account, including transactions that exceed certain amounts, when your balance falls below a certain level and when cash withdrawals are made.
Setting up alerts helped me spot fraudulent transactions on my credit card. I got a text message that a purchase had been made with my card that I knew I hadn’t made. I immediately called my credit card company to report the fraud and cancel my card. Alerts also can help you avoid overdraft or insufficient funds fees on your bank account if you’re notified when your balance gets low. They also can help you avoid exceeding your credit card limits.
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Track your finances with a budgeting app
An easy way to stay on top of finances is to use a budgeting app. There are several free apps that you can download and use to track all of your financial accounts in one place, said Angie Furubotten-LaRosee, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional with Avea Financial Planning.
“You can see all your bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, debt accounts, pretty much everything,” she said. “And you now know your net worth. Powerful.” It can take 30 minutes or less to link your financial accounts to one of these apps. You can use them to create a budget, monitor your spending, track your investments and even get customized money-management tips.
Buy term life insurance online
Buying term life insurance online can be done in 30 minutes or less. Assuming you’re provided with the right tools, it can actually be quite easy to understand how much life insurance you need, get an idea of how much the term life insurance policy will cost and, in some instances, start coverage that same day. For those who prefer digital services, buying term life insurance online can be a transparent, simple way to get financial protection for your loved ones.
At Haven Life, you can easily apply online for coverage. And helpful, human customer support is available if and when you need it. During the online application process, you will be asked about your age, lifestyle, personal health history, family health history and it will be fact-checked with third-party vendors like the Medical Information Bureau, DMV, and Social Security Administration to ensure all is accurate. This isn’t any more information than is collected in a traditional application process — except when you apply online, the information can be analyzed in real-time instead of over the course of several weeks.
If your Haven Term application is approved, you can start coverage that day. For medically underwritten coverage, it’s common to need a medical exam to verify the application information and to finalize your rate. At Haven Life, if a medical exam is needed, this can be taken at a time and place of your convenience. Some may qualify for temporary life insurance coverage while waiting for the medical exam results and a decision on the application.
Save money on auto or homeowners insurance
Spending a few minutes on the phone with your auto or homeowners insurance agent to make sure you’re getting all of the discounts you deserve can result in significant savings.
Furubotten-LaRossee said when she recently added another vehicle to her auto insurance policy, she found out that her premium was going to increase by almost $2,000 a year.
Not willing to accept such a big increase, Furubotten-LaRossee called her insurance agent to let her know that the vehicle she was adding was for her college-bound son. Her agent told her about a “college” discount she could get, but also suggested that she shop around for policies from companies that are friendlier to teenage drivers.
It can take only a few minutes to call your insurer to discuss ways to reduce your auto insurance premiums. Or you can go online to get quotes for auto and homeowners insurance to see if you can get a better deal with another insurer.
Review the investments in your retirement accounts
Many people save for retirement by setting up automatic contributions from their paycheck to a retirement savings account such as a 401(k). However, if you’ve done this, “that doesn’t mean you can sit back, relax, and forget about your 401(k) altogether,” said Marissa Greco, a CFP® with Greco-Nader Wealth Navigation.
Greco notes that it’s a good idea to check the performance of the investments you’ve chosen at least once a year. This can take 30 minutes or less. You might need to rebalance your portfolio to keep your investments aligned with your retirement goals.
You can also review the fees on your account to see if anything has changed, she said. Fees can eat into your investment returns and leave you with a smaller account balance. And if new funds become available within your 401(k), that’s an opportunity to research them to see if they are better for your investing goals.
Draft a will
If you want a say in who gets what when you die, you need a will. Otherwise, your state’s laws will dictate who gets your assets. Even if you already have a will, you might need to update your will if it was drafted decades ago and there have been changes in your life.
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to create a will. With an online service, such as Trust & Will, a partner of Haven Life Plus, you can draft a will in 30 minutes or less. (Editor’s note: Haven Term life insurance policyholders can create an individual or couples’ will at no cost through Trust & Will. That’s a $129 value. Learn more about Haven Life Plus.)
This basic will is state-specific and lets you name guardians (and backup guardians) for your children, name an executor (and backups), specify who gets your assets and whether you want to exclude anyone from receiving your property. It allows you to specify whether you want to make contributions to charities, leave gifts and items to specific people, and provide details about your assets, accounts and property for your beneficiaries.
It also lets you provide your final wishes about your burial and funeral arrangements. And a living will – which lets you specify what sort of end-of-life medical care you do or do not want – also is included in the price. The final document will be shipped to you, and you’ll receive instructions about whether it needs to be notarized or if you need witnesses when you sign it.
This basic will is adequate for about 85% of families with typical assets such as a house, said Cody Barbo, founder and CEO of Trust & Will. Families or individuals with a high net worth, in a second or third marriage, or with a more complicated financial situation would be better off meeting with an attorney to draft a will, he said.
Taking 30 minutes can reduce your financial stress and make life less hard
Tackling these six financial tasks can help you manage your money better, potentially save you some money and help protect your finances.
Of course, all of your financial problems won’t be solved. But for the small amount of time you invest in these tasks, you could see a big benefit – and reduce some of your stress about your personal finances.
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Cameron Huddleston is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances. She also is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about personal finance for more than 17 years. You can learn more about her at CameronHuddleston.com.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus Rider which is included as part of the Haven Term policy. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners).