You will remember the old joke about how to eat an elephant—one bite at a time. Organizing your finances can be simple, but as we get older, our lives have probably become more complex. While you are organizing those financial documents, think also about simplifying them.
Today, we suggest you take one small bite. Let’s start with your credit report.
First of all, you don’t have one credit report—you have three. There are three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You have reports at each one, and they may not be the same. Here’s Uncle Sam’s website that will give you contact info for all three:
Now go set up an online account at each credit bureau. And while you’re at it…have your spouse and college-aged children do the same (and maybe help your parents if they’ll let you). Track the username and password somewhere safe—and PLEASE—use a good solid, unique password—at least 12 to 16 characters with lots of variety. If you really want to see how insecure your old password is, go HERE and check to see how many times it has been in a data breach. Humor us—go change that password. Online security is a real thing.
And… just for fun, since we’re sure you’re already mentally checking out on this project, take a minute to watch this YouTube vid by comedian Michael McIntyre—“You Should Probably Change Your Password.” Yes, you should.
Second, have you checked your credit reports lately? Download and look at your reports—you can usually get one for free. Do you know how many open credit cards you have? A few years ago, we opened a Home Depot card while we renovated a condo in Colorado—it’s now sitting in a file in our office. Why keep it? To be clear, cutting up the card doesn’t close the account. Hackers may get access to your information and find a way to use your card. So consider closing unused cards.
Third, look for any inaccurate information. Consider the need to submit corrections or comments about any credit “dings” that might exist on your report. Cleaning up problem areas could be helpful if the need for credit is in your future—buying a home, car, etc.
Finally, freeze your credit report and save the pin to unfreeze the report with your password information. Freezing your credit report means that no one can access it unless you unfreeze it to allow them access. It also prevents scammers and hackers from using your data to open new credit cards in your name without your knowledge. Yes, identity theft is a thing. Just ask our niece, Charlotte.
Congratulations. That’s one important hurdle out of the way. More later.