Financial Checklist: Are You Making the Most of Your Accounts?

Financial Checklist: Are You Making the Most of Your Accounts?  Between enjoying the last days of summer and preparing for the fall, there’s a chance your mind is on things other than your bank accounts. But neglecting to regularly review your finances can sometimes cause you to miss out on benefits like better interest rates and fewer fees.

Here’s a quick financial checklist for making sure your accounts are working as hard as they could be.

Consider Your Savings Account Options

Saving money is important, whether it’s for a home renovation project down the road or for the unforeseen expenses of day-to-day life. But if you have money growing in a Money Market or Online Saving Account that you haven’t touched for a while, see if those funds could be earning more interest in another account, like a High Yield or No Penalty CD.

Sure, depending on the CD you choose, you may not be able to access that money as easily but if you don’t plan on using it for a while, this may not matter.

Check Out the Benefits of Rolling Over Your 401(k)

If you leave a job, you can usually continue to grow your 401(k) – or other retirement plan – with your former employer’s retirement plan provider. You may also opt to roll it over to an IRA. Which you decide to do will depend on your situation.

For instance, Forbes notes that if your former employer’s plan is low-cost and has desirable investment options, you may want to leave it alone. They also point out that if you’re older than or about to turn 55, a 401(k) gives you the option of taking distributions before 59½ – something you don’t get with an IRA (at least not without a penalty). However, Yahoo Finance notes that sometimes Roth IRAs have fewer fees, making them more appealing.

Smart planning is a crucial part of preparing for retirement, so talk to a financial advisor if you’re not sure whether a 401(k) or IRA is best for you.

Review Your Recurring Automatic Transactions

Automatic bill pay can be a great tool. It helps you take care of those monthly payments without having to write a check each month. But the fact that the service allows you to focus on other things doesn’t give you license to ignore those payments and accounts.

Kiplinger notes that bills with a variable rate can catch you off guard on months when you owe more than usual. Do you really want to pay an overdraft fee just because you forgot that your heating bill always spikes in December? The site also notes that if you’re inadvertently charged more than you owe, it can be difficult to recoup those funds after they’ve automatically been taken out.

If you use automatic bill pay, regularly monitor your accounts to ensure that the correct amounts are being withdrawn, and that you’re not paying for services you no longer use or need.

Look for Competitive Interest Rates

Are your accounts earning competitive interest? If not, they’re not working as hard as they could be.

Forbes notes that the top six average savings rates in 2012 were all found at online banks. So when you’re looking to make the most of your savings, you may want to consider an online bank like Ally Bank. Not only do we offer attractive returns on savings accounts, our Interest Checking account also earns a competitive rate.

Are you getting the most out of your accounts? If not, what changes will you be making?

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