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One of the biggest issues we see when we start working with clients is that they don’t have a solid understanding of what their starting point is. This almost always comes from a lack of organization, and believe us, we understand why. Organizing your statement balances on multiple accounts, premium notices and retirement account information can be a headache, and that’s just the beginning.

 But having an organized financial picture will help you get a clear idea of your starting point so you’ll know whether you’re on track to meet your lifestyle needs over the long haul. In order to do that, here are a few steps you can take now to get your financial life into a more organized state and get a better picture of your financial future.

Identify What Accounts You Have

The best place to start is to take stock of what you’re working with, but don’t worry, you don’t have to do it all in one sitting. This time of year you’re likely getting your annual statements in the mail ahead of the tax filing deadline. Keep those hard copies (or print off hard copies if you’re receiving them electronically) in one location so that when you have some time, you can start to sort through them and make a list of which accounts you have where, and what you have in each.

Once you know what you’re working with, you can start to see if the way your money is organized now is best suited to meet your long-term goals, and if not, you can start to make changes before it’s too late.

Take Inventory of Your Estate Planning and Insurance Documents

Many of us put off estate planning until we think we may need it and we put off long-term care or life insurance purchases to avoid added costs. That’s human nature, we want to avoid things that bring up sadness or discomfort (like paying for insurance premiums), but wouldn’t you rather avoid financial turmoil and stress for your family in a worst case scenario?

Being organized isn’t all about where your money is, but where it will go down the road. In order to be truly organized, you also need to get your estate plan in order and be sure that your documents are prepared and up to date. We recommend taking stock of your estate planning and insurance needs on an annual basis by talking to a financial advisor who has resources in both of these departments.

Write Out Your Wants and Needs for Retirement

The whole point of getting organized is to get yourself on track for the future you want, so it’s also important to really sit down and identify what those wants and needs are. Whether you’re years from retirement or are already retired, it’s not too late to course correct and pursue for the lifestyle you really want.

Sit down with your close loved ones and write a list of things you want to do, achieve and the lifestyle you want to have 5, 10 or 20 years from now. Once you know where you want to go, and what you’re working with at this starting line, you can start to make meaningful changes to ensure you have the retirement lifestyle you deserve.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

This article was originally published on Feb. 23, 2019 in the Brainerd Dispatch.