Financial Tasks for the New Year

Around here, January through March are the dull months. The holidays are over, the weather is bad and there just aren’t that many exciting things to do. I use this time period to tackle some of those recurring financial tasks that need to be done each year.
Here are the tasks I do and why I do them.

Update the Household Inventory

I started keeping an inventory of our household goods about 15 years ago. I started with the big stuff and have been adding to it each year. Mine is currently stored in a Microsoft Works database – since I haven’t switched it over to anything more ‘modern’ yet.

We have quite a few ‘collectible’ items, family heirlooms and some artwork. We’d like our heirs to have access to information about what we have and what we paid for it – to help them decide how to get the best value for it. I also wanted them to know which items have family history associated with them – in hopes that they will decide to hang onto those items for future generations.

Each year, I grab the printed inventory from our ‘if we die’ folder and roam through the house and garage jotting down notes about anything we have purchased or obtained through the year. Then I update the database and make a copy for each of my sons and one for the safety deposit box.

Update my Locations Document.
After 9/11, I started keeping a summary sheet that lists all of our important documents and where they are stored. It has things like life insurance policies, social security cards, financial statements, birth, death and marriage certificates, and etc listed on it – along with where that document currently is kept and any comments I care to make about it.

Each year I check to make sure we haven’t changed the location or gotten rid of the documents. I add any new documents and update the old with pertinent changes. I make a copy for our ‘if we die’ folder, the safety deposit box and each of our sons.

Tax Prep
All year long, as we receive receipts for donations or any other item which could impact our taxes, it goes into a folder in the file. At the end of the year, as tax statements start coming in, I make a copy of each one and put the original and the copy in the tax folder – as prep for getting them to the accountant that does our taxes.

We also review any securities that we sold throughout the year and calculate the cost basis (if we hadn’t already done so) in preparation for reporting capital gains or losses.

Produce a Year End Net Worth Report
Although I produce a net worth statement each time I update Quicken, after we receive all of the year end valuation statements from the various institutions we use, I produce a final as of 12/31 for the year. A copy again goes to the ‘if we die’ folder, the safety deposit box and to each of our sons.

Now that I run some online sites, I back up things multiple times a year. However, at the start of the year, I make copies of all pertinent data, photos and etc to put into the safety deposit box. Hopefully that way, if we ever have a house disaster, I would only have to re-create a max of one years data. This chore has gotten more complex over the years as we have a variety of electronic devices on which we store things – some more ancient than others!

Spending Reports
Also during this time frame, I go back through all of our expenditures throughout the year, classify them and total them to see if our spending habits have changed. I’m sure most of you smart readers do this as you do the transactions – and so are two steps ahead of me!

Clean up the Paper Files
We keep all paper confirms and statements from all financial institutions. By the end of the year, the drawers are full. I go through, organize the folder for each institution and account and the take out any statements that are older than last year. These are put into ‘long term’ storage (aka, someplace a bit harder to get to!).

Act on Financial Plans
If I did it right, we have plans for the coming year which we developed at the end of the year after reviewing our asset allocations and goals for the new year. Now is the time we start doing the things we planned to do!

What do you do in those hum drum winter months to keep your financial house in order?

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