My wife is a big devotee of the Home and Garden Channel that, among other things, airs programs on how to sell your house at a top price, the ins and outs of designing and refurbishing, how to make your outside more attractive, and how to clean up an unorganized, cluttered house. It even shows how certain companies can come in and put your closets back in order with what are called California Closets--a combination of bins, shelves, and rods that help keep everything in its place.
Well, the idea can also catch fire with your own financial life. Ask many financial people about what you can do to simplify and clean up the clutter in your own checkbook and at your own desk at home, and you will probably see three specific areas highlighted:
1. Deep Six Outdated Investments
Sounds harsh, eh? But, what we are talking about is getting rid of all those investments that simply play havoc with your portfolio. For example, take a look at some of those stocks or funds that you have had sitting in your portfolio for years and years and can't even remember the circumstances under which you bought them. Are they doing anything or are they simply taking up space?
Most of the financial gurus I know advocate the KISS approach: Keep It Simple Stupid. They don't particularly ascribe to a portfolio that has a huge number of investments. Most will keep to around two dozen stocks plus a few mutual funds. Many claim that you can certainly have a solid stock portfolio with fewer than 24 stocks and most think that having too many mutual funds will simply not add to the long-term success odds. Also, with all the talk about diversification, keep in mind that too many funds with possible duplications of holdings, or overlapping of areas, will actually give you less diversification.
2. Combine Accounts
Who today doesn't have financial arrangements (which means relationships with other people) to cover insurance, mortgage, investments, saving, banking, to name a few? It would be preferable to get that number down to perhaps two or three, at most. The savings just on transaction fees would warrant it. Linking accounts is one way to go. Banks are advocating this today by getting more and more people to do banking (e.g., check writing and bill payments) on line. At the same time, consider consolidating various accounts into one or two. There are many people who are spread too thin with investments being placed in a number of financial services companies. No real need for that today. Again, KISS it all goodbye.
3. Go Paperless
You have heard the word "paperless" over and over. That's clearly where we are heading. Many financial institutions are asking their customers whether they would prefer to have electronic statements sent to them instead of paper via snail mail. Most credit card companies are going that route, as well. It's an opportunity to rid you of all that paper clutter. For example, Harrisdirect sends out an email notification when your statements are available online. And they keep them available for two years.
The idea here is to organize your financial niche a little bit better. Remember that, as most financial experts will tell you, the more free time you have, the more time you will have for better analysis and research. And that may really give your portfolio and financial plan a leg up.
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