Spring Clean Your Finances in 6 Days

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Day 4: Review investment strategies for retirement planning. Consider IRA and Roth IRA contributions, 401(k) and 403(b) contributions, annuities, individually held stocks and bonds, and mutual funds.

From 2007 to 2030, more than 76 million Americans will begin to retire. With little or no savings women are working well into their 70s. As MSNBC news correspondent Janet Shamlian commented, "They simply don't have the means to retire. And because women tend to live longer and earn less, it's a critical issue."

Approximately 96 percent of Americans will be financially dependent on the government, family or charity when they retire, according to a 2003 study by creditcard.com. Women have to be prudent and avoid falling prey to circumstances that would cause them to outlive their money.

Undertake a wholesale evaluation of your investment portfolio, and if you don't have one, begin putting money aside today. Review for proper diversification and asset reallocation to achieve higher total returns. If you can, contribute the maximum in any company-matched, tax-deferred contribution plans; this is free money in your pocket.

Entrepreneurs make tax-deferred IRA contributions no later than April 15. The IRS allows for "catch up" contributions up to $1,000 above the regular contribution limit if you are 50 years and older.

Always remember to invest in appreciating, not depreciating, assets.

Day 5: Estate planning review (every three years). Determine ownership or incidence of ownership for everything in your estate. Also take the following steps:

  • Review your will
  • Review beneficiaries
  • Determine patient advocacy. This is someone who is legally responsible to expedite a patient's wishes regarding medical treatment in the event the patient cannot make his or her decisions. The patient releases access to financial assets and medical records. The legal document is called a Durable Power of Attorney.
  • Designate guardians and custodians. Guardianship involves the duty and responsibility for care. Custody deals with the right to make legal decisions for the individual. For minors children, under 18, guardianship and custody are accomplished through a legal will. Also, guardianship or limited guardianship may be obtained over an adult who is deemed incompetent.
  • Re-examine trust agreements.

    As a financial coach, I have known countless believers who thought they owned an asset but didn't—and who discovered that another person they thought might own it didn't own it either. Ownership is evidenced by titles, deeds, or other legal documents and not by word-of-mouth.

    Be sure to verify beneficiaries. I could tell you numerous horror stories of situations that occurred "after Mama went to be with Jesus."

    Also, remember to address the issue of medical care and custody of aging parents and to protect your underage children with a legal will that establishes guardianship.

    Some people think estate planning is only for the rich or that the benefits of an estate are to be realized only after death. Not so! We have an opportunity to give during our lifetimes. My husband and I have been blessed to give hundreds of thousands of dollars into the kingdom, and we are believing that God will allow us to make more and give more while we are still alive!

    Day 6: Evaluate your financial advisers. These would include personal financial planners, legal counselors, stockbrokers or money managers, loan and mortgage bankers, coaches and mentors, and insurance agents.

    The Bible tells us that "plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed" (Prov. 15:22, NIV). Who's on your team of financial advisers?

    Today you can perform extensive research on the Internet with subscriptions to financial blogs, podcasts and Web sites. Read financial newspapers, books and magazines. Take the initiative in educating yourself but get good godly counsel as well.

    Jesus once told a story about a woman who had 10 silver coins and loses one. Then He asked His listeners: "'Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin"'" (Luke 15:8-9).

    Women of God, it's time for you to start searching for the "lost coins" in your budget that you can use to improve your financial situation. Happy spring-cleaning!

  • Read a companion devotional.

    Catherine B. Eagan is the founder of Catherine Eagan Enterprises and a leading Christian financial expert.

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