Are you gambling with your financial future? You could be, if you’re one of the 43% of Americans with checking accounts who don’t regularly balance their checkbooks. The potential impact your financial present can have on your financial future is broadening every day. From employment, insurance, obtaining preferred credit opportunities to identity theft, your best security is found in awareness of your financial NOW.
We live in an information age. Information is power. The more information you have about your financial affairs, the more power you’ll have to reach your goals. Fortunately there are some simple things you can do to keep your financial prospects bright.
First, commit time and attention to your accounts. No, you don’t need to obsessively monitor your accounts on a daily basis, but you do need to commit to consistency in attending to your basic financial activities. Your checking account will claim the majority of your time and attention.
You may feel that only the extremely wealthy need bother. Don’t kid yourself. The cost of not paying attention to financial affairs is proportionately higher for those with lower incomes or in other words, fewer funds to waste.
Next, know your account. What are the account guidelines? Do you earn interest by keeping a minimum balance in your checking account? Does your account have a limit on the number of checks you can write in a month? Are there charges for use of checks but not the debit card? You need to know.
What else? Open your mail. Don’t stack it in the corner. Don’t throw it away. Do it now. Why? Most financial institutions have time limitations on correcting mistakes or errors. The sooner you notify them of a problem the sooner it can be resolved. After 60 days some financial institutions will not even investigate the issue – and odds of charge or fee reimbursement lower the longer you wait. In addition, your account statement will more closely match your records (and lower the difficulty of reconciling the two) if you review now, instead of waiting for more transactions to be completed. (If your statement is printed today and mailed to you, you may have written more checks or made more deposits that will not appear until next month.)
Of course, we’re also recommending you keep good records of all your banking transactions. Whether you keep a written record or use one of the many software packages available, the point is to keep good records. Track all activity – funds in, funds out including debit or ACH/EFT, as well as bank fees and charges. The more complete records you keep, the easier it will be to check your statement for accuracy.
Don’t forget to monitor your account activity occasionally – by phone or Internet – between statements. This is especially true if you anticipate unusual transactions such as your IRS refund or clearing a particularly large check.
Most importantly, call your financial institution now if you find a problem. Again, the rule of thumb for getting the problem fixed is sooner rather than later.
Remember, all of these ideas can be used for any of your accounts: checking, savings, credit cards, loans, even you statement from CAF should be compared to the statements for the accounts included in your debt management program.
You’ll find that a simple investment of time and attention to your accounts will pay big dividends in your financial future.