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COLUMN: Spring clean your financial records

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By Theresa Howard

As the weather warms up, it usually triggers many to start spring cleaning. As you prepare your house by dusting and cleaning, remember to also take time to "clean-up" your financial records.

Sort through financial paperwork and identify old statements that can be shredded or thrown away. It is always a good idea to shred any paperwork that contains personal information, especially bank account, credit card or other financial information. In general, you can shred utility statements, ATM receipts and cancelled checks after one year. Before shredding, be certain you have verified payment to the account and there are no bill issues.

Once you have cleaned up your paperwork, take time to get organized. Create a filing system. This is also a good time to review important documents, such as insurance policies, wills or estate plans. Have you experienced any life changes in the last year that would require you to update these documents?

Finally, as you do your spring cleaning, consider updating your insurance records. Proper documentation of household goods is always helpful in the event that you need to process a claim. Make a list of valuable items, being certain to note manufacturer, model and serial numbers. Use a camera to take pictures as a record of items in your home.

Teach your teen to budget

For a hands-on math exercise, have your teen make a list of everything they do each month that costs money (and then remind them of the "extra" things they don't see - like insurance and rent). Let your teen guess each item's total price, and then together, calculate the actual costs.

Teenagers don't often realize how quickly things add up, especially the "behind the scenes" costs that parents typically pay for, like electricity and groceries. Take things a step further by assigning your teen responsibility for one family meal a week. Set a budget, and then give them responsibility for picking a healthy recipe and creating a grocery list for the meal. Shop and cook together for extra family time. It's never too early to learn to plan and budget.