Spring is here—and for many of us, that means it’s time for some spring cleaning. This year, in addition to tidying up your home, why not try brightening your financial environment? Some of the same moves you make to clean your surroundings may apply to your finances. Consider these suggestions:
- Get rid of clutter. When you go through your closets, attic, basement or other areas, you may find many items you no longer need. You might be able to sell some of these things or find other ways of disposing of them. And as you review your portfolio, you might also encounter “clutter” in the form of investments that may be redundant to others you own. If so, you might consider selling these investments and using the proceeds to purchase new ones, which may help you broaden your portfolio.
- Protect yourself from hazards. As you go about your spring cleaning, you may well encounter hazardous substances, such as cleaning agents, paints, batteries, pesticides and so on, which you don’t need anymore and which may pose potential health risks. You can reduce the possible danger from these materials by recycling or disposing of them in an environmentally safe way. Your overall financial situation has hazards, too, in the form of illness or injury preventing you from working, or, in your later years, the need for some type of long-term care, such as an extended stay in a nursing home. To protect yourself, you may need appropriate insurance, including disability and long-term care.
- Find new uses for existing possessions. When you are sprucing up your home, you may rediscover uses for things you already have. Who knows—perhaps that treadmill that’s been gathering dust in your garage could actually be employed again as part of your rededicated exercise regimen. And you might be able to get more mileage out of some of your existing investments, too. Suppose, for instance, that some of your stocks are paying you dividends, which you take as cash. If you don’t really need this income to support your lifestyle, you might consider reinvesting the dividends so that you can own more shares of the dividend-paying stocks. Over the long run, increased share ownership is a key to helping build your portfolio.
- Establish new habits. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be just about physical activities—it can also involve a new set of habits on your part. For example, instead of placing your unread magazines in an ever-expanding pile, try to read and recycle them quickly. You can also develop some positive habits as an investor, such as “paying yourself first” by regularly putting some money in an investment account each month, even before paying all your bills. You can also avoid some bad habits, such as overreacting to market downturns by selling investments to “cut your losses,” even though those same investments may still have strong growth potential and may still be suitable for your needs.
Doing some spring cleaning can make you feel better about your living space today. And applying some of these techniques to your financial situation can help you gain a more positive outlook for tomorrow.