Five financial tasks for summer

The Savage Truth

It’s hard to write a column about money in July. Everyone is mentally on vacation and reluctant to concentrate on financial matters, unless there’s an emergency. The lazy days of summer are not conducive to taking on money projects. But here are five easy things you could do this summer to help secure your financial future.

Take a closer look at the mutual funds in your 401(k) plan: It’s not enough just to make those automatic contributions from your paycheck. You should review those choices in light of your current circumstances, which have likely changed since you made your initial allocations. And the rising market may have given you more exposure to the stock market than is wise.

Go to Morningstar.com and research the funds in which you’ve invested. How has their performance been, compared to their peers? If your plan has “proprietary funds” not listed in the Morningstar database, check with your plan administrator for performance documentation compared to their benchmarks. And if the funds in your plan have underperformed, you can complain to management about your choices.

Call your life insurance agent: I know that elicited a groan. Reviewing your policies is likely the last thing on your mind on a lazy summer day, but you have some spare time, so do it.

Be careful about switching policies and generating new commissions. But do you still need all that insurance now that your children are grown? Or do you need more insurance since recently giving birth?

Check out inexpensive term insurance prices online at AccuQuote.com or TermQuote.com. For more sophisticated policies that build cash value, you’ll need an agent who places your needs above the thought of juicy commissions.

And be sure to check the beneficiary on each policy. Make sure the insurance company has the correct name and address, so your ex-spouse doesn’t wind up with a windfall one day.

Review your will or revocable living trust: On a lovely summer day, who wants to think about dying? Of course, death takes no holiday, so is your end-of-life plan up to date? Are your grandchildren covered, or has a beneficiary passed away since you created your plan? This is the time to contact your attorney for a phone review. It’s easy and inexpensive to make changes to your revocable living trust.

And don’t forget to review and update your health care power of attorney. It may be time to put that obligation on your adult children instead of your spouse.

Appeal your property taxes and check for exemptions: Rising property taxes are a national issue, as municipalities and states seek money to fund their services. Summer may not be the window during which you can appeal in your locality, but you will never know until you ask.

Smart money business owners hire attorneys who specialize in getting legitimate property tax reductions. But ordinary people typically struggle to pay the increased bills. Find one of those smart lawyers and ask for help. (Fees are usually paid out of the money that is saved.) And if you’ve recently become a senior (which has different definitions in each state), find out if you qualify for a freeze or reduction in taxes.

Check your credit report: It’s easy and it’s free. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com, where you are entitled to one free report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year, without signing up for credit monitoring services. It’s better to find out about mistakes now so you can address them immediately. You also may have a credit card that offers free credit scores.

Don’t take a vacation from your money this summer. It could be costly. And that’s The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and the author of four best-selling books, including “The Savage Truth on Money.” She responds to questions on her blog at TerrySavage.com.

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