How to Take Advantage of Tax Time Document Gathering

Jessica Lanning

There are three good things that come out of tax time:  (1) it officially ends the previous year, so onward and upward; (2) it’s a great time to declutter—scan and file and throw things out; and (3) you have all your financial documents in one place, which is a great time to have a “financial tuneup day”. This is not my creation, but that of Ron Lieber of The New York Times. It’s a great idea.

What to eliminate from 31 ideas and what to add

There’s an older article that refers to 31 ideas. I see no reason to replicate it.  Check it out.  There are some great suggestions.

 
Here’s what I would not do (or at least be wary of):

• Make an extra mortgage payment.  This is only worthwhile if you’ve sat down with your financial planner and decided this is actually in your best interests.  It likely isn’t.

• Increase your student loan payment.  Again, only worthwhile if you’ve considered the interest rate, whether you can deduct the interest, and whether it makes sense in your overall financial plan.  Remember, paying off debts is not the same as accumulating assets.

• Seeking a lower interest credit card.  Initiating new credit can bring down your credit score, so if you’re planning to buy a house, this could be a bad idea.  Otherwise, it’s a great idea.

• Be careful about shopping for new home and auto policies.  Make sure that you’re not losing “seniority” at your insurer that you would be giving up should you change companies.

 
Here’s what I applaud and highly recommend:

• Set an automated payment toward your debt.  In this, I’m thinking about the minimum monthly payments.  Make sure those are paid automatically.  Now, you might always pay more or pay them off, but I can’t tell you how many clients thought they were paying ABC Bank for their mortgage but sent the payment to the credit card division and didn’t catch the mistake until they were 30 days late.  Yikes.

• Check your credit report.

• Reread your estate planning documents. Make sure you still agree with them.

• Walk a loved one through your affairs. 

 
Here’s what I would add:

• Call your mortgage broker and see if you can do better on your residential loans.

• See the comment near “Investments and Retirement” about checking out your medical report file from the nationwide consumer reporting agencies.  Like checking your credit report, you may discover mistakes that are causing you money.

• Consider buying long-term care insurance.

 
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