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‘Tis the Season to Spruce up Your Finances

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finances-webRISMEDIA, April 6, 2009-Spring’s arrival is obvious. The weather’s warmer, the days longer and you seem to have a little more energy. Chances are some of that energy will be used for spring cleaning – washing the windows, cleaning the closets or planting a garden. According to the Illinois CPA Society, it may also be smart to put a little of that energy into getting your financial house in order too.

Here are five ways to spruce up your finances:

1. Shake the dust out of your financial plan. Take a look at what your goals are and whether you are meeting them or not. If the past few months have your financial plan on shaky ground, it may be time to rethink your goals and set new ones. Make sure everything is in order and the plan reflects any changes in your life over the past year.

2. Make your credit report shine. It’s important to get your credit clean and keep it that way, especially in today’s economy. Check your credit score (it’s free from each of the three main bureaus once a year or go to www.annualcreditreport.com) and clear up any discrepancies. Develop a strategy to pay off your debt. Don’t cancel zero balance credit cards if you will be applying for a loan; keeping them open but inactive enhances your credit score.

3. Simplify. Assess all of your open accounts - checking, money market and savings – and consolidate what you can. Have an account in another state? Close it. A 401(k) from a previous job? Roll it over to your current plan or IRA if it makes good sense under market conditions. Having as few accounts as possible will reduce confusion and help keep your finances healthy.

4. Be ready for a rainy day. Although it’s not easy these days to find any extra money in your budget, do what you can to put even a small amount away on a regular basis to build a rainy day fund. Now more than ever, having some cash on hand in case of a layoff, major home repair or other emergency is a good idea.

5. Get rid of the clutter. Determine what paperwork needs to be saved and what can be discarded. It’s recommended that you keep your past IRS tax records for at least seven years and try to keep copies of the returns as long as you can as they may contain valuable information and may not be available from the IRS.

If you feel a little lost and don’t know where to start, contact a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). CPAs are more than just tax specialists; they can provide a broad range of guidance for the years ahead.

For more information, visit http://www.icpas.org.

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