One thing I’ve learned from the mortgage and lending crisis — you can’t be too familiar with the terms and conditions of your loans, investments, and credit cards.
Now that we’re facing a credit crisis, it’s more important than ever that you’re familiar with the policies of your lenders and investment firms as some institutions are making changes to their policies.
Take some time this month to educate yourself on where your money is really going and whether you’re getting the best deal.
- How much interest are you earning on your savings and checking accounts? What are your options for increasing your interest rate? (Consider moving your savings to ING Direct for a 2.5% interest rate.)
- Are you paying monthly fees for your accounts? If so, it’s probably time to switch banks. There are many banks that offer completely fee-free accounts.
- How much do you pay for ATM fees and other transactions? You may be surprised to find out how much you’ve been spending on certain transactions.
- Is your account still open? Some credit card lenders have started closing dormant accounts, so if it’s been a while since you used your card, check and make sure it hasn’t been closed due to inactivity.
- What is your interest rate? This may have recently changed, so check your statement or call for the most current information.
- What is your credit limit? It also may have recently changed, so make sure you know exactly how much it is. A lower credit limit can affect your credit score.
- How much are you paying per transaction? If your fees are high, consider investing in lump sums less frequently to make the most of your fees.
- If you’re paying high fees, consider moving your investments to no-load mutual funds through discount brokers or investment firms.
- Take some time to check out the prospectus report for your investments. Is it time to change your portfolio?
- How much time do you have until retirement? If you’re planning on retiring in 5 years or less, it’s time to move your investments out of the stock market and into low-risk bonds. If you’re young, now is a great time for stock market investments because prices are low and you have plenty of time for the market to rebound from its current state.
Mortgages and other loans
- Are you eligible for refinancing or consolidation? If your credit is good, now might be a good time to consider refinancing for a lower interest rate.
It can be a pain to track down this information, but it’s worth it to know where you stand. Not only is it important to know where your money is going, but it’ll give you a chance to determine if you’re getting the best rates, fees, etc. As long as the market continues to fluctuate, I suggest you take stock of your finances every 3 months to make sure nothing has changed.