How to spring clean your paperwork

In a digital age, it’s becoming easier to do away with the paperwork that accumulates through a lifetime. Still, the piles seem to grow each time you look away. We can’t tell you how to sort through the adorable artwork you’ve collected from children and grandchildren over the years, but we can help you navigate those ubiquitous stacks of financial forms. We’ve developed a quick-look chart to help sort, preserve and/or discard various financial items. If you don’t want to keep the paper receipts, you could scan them and store them in an external hard drive, or secure on-line file sharing service. Just make sure your passwords are also stored securely but can be accessed by your Power of Attorney should you become indisposed. As an additional convenience and to reduce the paperwork further, we recommend choosing on-line access to your accounts when possible. If you have any questions about how to dispose of your financial paperwork, please feel free to give us a call. We’ll help spring clean your paperwork, but you’re on your own when it comes to washing those windows.   Type of Document How Long to Keep It Where to Store It Bank and brokerage statements; cancelled checks At least 1 year, longer if expenses are deductible Filing cabinet Social security card; birth and marriage certificates; passport Indefinitely Fireproof box or safe-deposit box Current insurance policies Indefinitely (toss outdated policies) Safe-deposit box or fireproof box Stock and bond certificates Indefinitely Safe-deposit box (keep a list of these items in a fireproof box) ATM receipts Until transaction is posted to statement Filing cabinet Tax returns At least seven years Filing cabinet Mortgage paperwork At least until paid off Fireproof box Loan paperwork At least until paid off Filing cabinet Property deeds Indefinitely Safe-deposit box Car titles As long as you own the car Safe-deposit box Credit card statements One year (longer if charges are deductible) Filing cabinet… | Read More »

Six things graduates can do to mitigate loan debt

The statistics have become more alarming with each passing year loan. Currently, more than 70% of all college graduates carry student loan debt into the next phase of their lives. Americans now have more than $1.4 trillion in unpaid education debt, according to the Federal Reserve. Trillion. That’s 1,400,000,000,000. Students graduating today can expect to spend the next two decades of their lives paying down their collegiate debt. In fact, according to a study from the OneWisconsin Institute, it takes graduates of Wisconsin universities 19.7 years to pay off a bachelor’s degree and 23 years to pay off a graduate degree. Fortunately, there are things a graduate can do almost as soon as he or she tosses their mortar board into the air to help mitigate student loan debt. First, consider putting that graduation gift money to good use by investing it in a Roth IRA.  Even $500 accrues handsomely if you invest it early enough in your career. You also can use your graduation gift money to begin making payments on your loan. Most loans allow a grace period after graduation, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it. Interest accrues during grace periods and it’s much better to start knocking down your debt as quickly as possible. Second, choose your next step with care. Consider the options for housing and transportation when you weigh job offers. Also, look at the overall cost of living and how that might affect your social life. The average monthly payment on a student loan in 2017 (for borrowers aged 20 to 30 years) was $351. That’s a sizable chunk to factor into a monthly budget. Third, if it fits with your long-term employment plans, consider a job (like Teach for America) that offers some form of loan forgiveness. It is important to note, however, that you may have to pay income taxes on forgiven loans. Fourth, take advantage of available apps… | Read More »

Five tips for #WorldPasswordDay

When Under Armour announced the My Fitness Pal® data breach earlier this year, my first concern was the potential exposure of my exercise schedule, eating habits and, worst of all, weight. Of course the real risk in any data breach is not potential embarrassment, but actual financial loss. In announcing the hack, Under Armour noted that user names, email addresses and hashed passwords had all been exposed. These episodes remind us how vulnerable we are with so much of our private information stored on line. In honor of #WorldPasswordDay, here are some tips to keep yourself and your accounts as safe as possible: When possible, use multi-factor authentication. This is one of the best ways to prevent hackers from accessing your information and it is well worth the slight inconvenience. This means chose a log in process that requires not only a password and username, but also a piece of information that only you would know. Another form of multi-factor authentication occurs when you are sent a code to input after you enter your password or login. You use multi-factor authentication each time you access your accounts through your debit card, as it requires the physical card, occasionally a chip and a pin number. It’s tempting to avoid these extra layers of security, but, if you take them seriously, they will add an extra level of protection to your account. Consider using a password manager, which will store, encrypt and create passwords for you. Then, all you need to remember is your master password (which you should protect with two-factor authentication). Do not share your passwords via text or email. Choose answers to security questions only you would know. Another trick is to choose the wrong answers to the security questions (as long as you remember what you answered). Choose an answer that is incorrect but related – instead of your mother’s maiden name, maybe use your mother in-law’s maiden… | Read More »