Looking at tax forms, medical bills, monthly credit card statements, and Social Security benefit forms can be pure drudgery when you’d rather be working out at the fitness center, searching for a good cup of coffee, or thinking about your dream car.
But with the holiday spending season behind us and tax-filing season upon us, this is a good time be talking about the “D” word, as in documentation.
If your kids are not too far removed from striking out on their own, there are some key pieces of paperwork they should become familiar with that could put them or help them stay on the right course financially. Here are some of the documents to pay attention to:
▪ Annual credit card expenditure summary. This is my keeper. Many banks early in the year provide you with a detailed record of all your credit card payments and transactions from the previous year, complete with pie charts. You can also retrieve this information online or if you’re using a budgeting and money management website.
Did you really spend $120 a month on entertainment? Do pet care costs rank up there with the winter heating bill? And why is that “miscellaneous” account so fat with transactions? The numbers don’t lie — and they also can feed your motivation to budget better this year.
▪ Credit card statements. You’re still paying off the credit card bill for all those holiday purchases when something hits you: “I don’t remember spending $500 at Target the week before Christmas.”
Keep a sharp eye on your credit card statements for duplicate charges or for an item you never received. If there’s even a hint of concern that a thief may have gained access to your account, call the issuing bank immediately.
▪ Tax documents. By now, you should have received your W-2 and 1099 forms, along with some others. Keep all the tax documents together, meaning separate from the rest of the mail so they’re not accidentally tossed.
If itemizing, pay attention to charitable donations, such as when you gave away several truckloads of clothing and furniture to a nonprofit before moving into that cozy one-bedroom apartment. The Salvation Army, for example, has a valuation guide that helps you determine the approximate tax-deductible value of commonly donated items.
▪ Social Security wage and earnings summary. Even if retirement is not in the vocabularly of a young millennial, or they don’t imagine Social Security will even be there 50 years from now, it still pays to review and save this document.
You should receive a statement from the Social Security Administration every five years starting at age 25 and running through at least age 60. Statements go out three months before your birthday. Of course, you can get one any time by going to Social Security’s website and creating an account.
What to look for? Start with the spelling of your name and your Social Security number. Look at your annual wages. Are you wages from that summer grocery sacking job eight years ago listed on the report? They should be.
▪ Credit score. It’s never been easier to find your credit score — for free. Many banks now provide credit scores to their customers at no charge, and there are numerous websites that do the same. Do not pay for this service.
Your credit score is a number lenders use to determine whether you’re a good risk or not when applying for a loan. It will impact the interest rate you’re charged to borrow the money.
▪ Monthly checking account statement. Here’s an opportunity to work with your teenager to make sure he or she knows the banking terminology — what’s the difference between a debit card and a credit card, go over service fees, and review the rewards program benefits.
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879