An easy to-do list for financial security

We’re at that time of year where many of us are inclined to make lists of things we’re finally going to accomplish. From promises of more trips to the gym to cleaning out the closets, we all have things we can work on but tend to avoid for one reason or another.

Well, now you’re in luck. We’ve come up with a to-do list for your financial security – and each item is easy to achieve! With the promise of no heavy lifting, this is a list we can all get started on today.

1. Give yourself a savings raise. Take a look at how much you’re currently saving for retirement through your 401(k) or IRA. Now try and take it up a notch. Even a small increase from year to year can make a big difference in your nest egg. If you’re 50 or over, you can make even higher contributions to your 401(k) or IRA because of a “catch up” rule. For 401(k)-type plans, you can add in another $5,500 above the $17,500 threshold. For IRAs, you can save up to $6,500 — $1,000 more than people under age 50.

2. Know what your creditors know. A credit report is a record of your payment history to creditors, as reported by them. Lenders use your credit report to determine if they should lend to you and at what interest rate. Employers and even landlords may review your reports, too, as part of their background check process. You can request a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three credit reporting companies. The easiest way is to request them online at Review your reports to make sure they are accurate. If you see any inaccuracies or suspicious activity, contact the credit reporting company. Oh, and ignore the cute ads about getting your credit report. They may have catchy jingles, but they aren’t directing you to the free resource.

3. Be sure about insurance. Your insurance needs change as your life changes. What you need when you’re single and renting is a lot different from what you need as a married parent and homeowner, for example. So take stock of where you are in life and see if your insurance coverage matches up.

· If you have people who depend on your income, you need life insurance to protect them in the event of your death.

·  Short-term and long-term disability insurance will replace a portion of your income if you are unable to work due to an illness or injury – permanently or temporarily, as the case may be.

·  Just as you have homeowner’s insurance when you own a home, you should carry renter’s insurance if you’re a renter. It will help cover your personal belongings and other losses in the event of a theft or fire – even if the theft occurs outside of your own home.

4. Benefit from employer-provided benefits. Are you taking advantage of all the benefits your employer has to offer? Lots of employers offer benefits beyond health insurance and retirement savings accounts. For example, you may be able to benefit from lower group rates for life, disability and long-term care insurance. Or maybe you can get a discount on a gym membership. Perhaps your employer offers a flexible spending account (FSA) or — if you have a high-deductible plan — a health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA). An FSA allows you to pay for certain health and dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars. HSAs and HRAs allow you to invest pre-tax dollars in an account set aside for your current and future health expenses. Make sure you know what’s available so you’re not missing out.

5. Roll over your rollover. If you have a rollover IRA and are currently working for an employer that offers a 401(k) or similar plan, it may make sense to do a ‘reverse rollover.’ If the work plan has investments you like and accepts rollover IRAs, the move may save you money in investment management fees. This is because large plans can often demand better deals that drive down cost. Another plus is avoiding an IRA requirement to start withdrawing funds at age 70 and a half. If you’re still working then, you don’t have to start drawing down your 401(k).

See there? A list that’s entirely doable, and once finished, will leave you with that feeling of satisfaction that only ticking off to-do items can offer. Then it’s on to the next challenge.

Jean Setzland, the writer of this asrticle, is AARP’s vice president of financial security issues.

AARP vice president Jean Szetland passes along financial security tips.
AARP vice president Jean Szetland passes along financial security tips.