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Do you feel overwhelmed with your career, family, finances or day to day tasks? Is your time limited, do you need more hours in a day? If you find yourself taking care of your children, husband, pets, and miscellaneous chores before you leave for work; you are not alone. When you come home from work do you cringe as you open the overstuffed mailbox before you go into the house to start the final phase of your day? It is extremely difficult to find time these days; hopefully we can help get you started.

Let’s address your incoming mail. How long does it take for you to sort through the mail before “getting to the important stuff”? First let’s take a look at how many mailing lists you are on. To remove your name from mailing lists, you should contact the US Post Office for information on registering with The Direct Marketing Association to remove your name from national contact lists. Think if you were to remove all direct mailings – would you be reducing a large portion of your mail?

Evaluate what is left in your stack of mail. Do you have a number of bills to pay every month that you write checks for? Consider online bill pay, it simplifies the process of paying bills; especially those paid monthly. Bill pay set up is the most time you will spend in the process; setting up the vendors with their addresses and your account numbers. Once you set up your vendors to be paid, each payment then is sent easily by accessing the site, choosing your vendor entering the amount and date to be paid. You receive a confirmation of payment right away. You eliminate lost or late payments in the mail. Your past payments can be tracked easily if you were to need verification. Think of the time you’ll save! If you prefer your incoming bills to be emailed to you rather than through the US Postal System, this can often be done as well.

Do you have multiple investment statements coming in the mail? Consider consolidating your investments, there are many benefits when you do this. First, evaluate what you have from bank accounts, to brokerage or mutual funds, to IRA’s and insurance products.
Do you have multiple IRA’s that you’ve opened over the years? Do you pay a maintenance fee for each account? That may be incentive enough. If you have several IRA’s in which you are paying fees, by having one account – you only have one fee!
What about a job you have left money in the company’s retirement plan, such as a 401(k)? Roll it over into your IRA, this is a tax and penalty free transaction. Now, you can choose your investments options not just what the company offered in their plan.
In addition, you know can determine your total account value and keep better track of performance and investment choices. Think about the time you will save if you need to add, delete or change a beneficiary- done is a single account. Did I mention the mail you would eliminate?

Take a look at your regular investments, your non retirement assets. Do you have a single account, or accounts at various brokerage firms, banks, and or mutual fund companies? What if you could combine all holdings onto a single statement? Many firms will allow you to do just that, and will encourage it. Interview various firms to see if they offer any incentives, such as reduced fees, for keeping money at their firm and what amount they are looking for. With household account values reaching various firm “breakpoints” often many fees are waived; such as maintenance fees, wire transfer fees, online bill pay etc. Think about services you have or would like to have and inquire to save additional money. By consolidating outside holdings, you instantly will become a larger client than before, and may find your self having more interaction with your advisor or firm you deal with. More importantly, you will save time by seeing your investments on one statement when evaluating performance and possibly avoiding overlap in investment choices.

By cleaning up your incoming mail you will be surprised at the time you have created for yourself; not just initially but ongoing. You will have eliminated unnecessary trash by addressing the marketing items you sorted through, only to throw away. By choosing to consolidate investments, not only do you have less mail, at a glance you will know your total account value and how your investments together as a whole are performing. You may have in addition saved on fees and perhaps picked up a few additional services for being a “valued client”. Most importantly, with the time you have freed up you now have time to spend with family, friend, or relaxing time for you.

This is just a starting point to get you thinking of ways to eliminate clutter in your life, and focus on your priorities. Take a few minutes to think of other areas you can clean up and find time in your day that was not there before. Make 2010 the year of you!

Jennifer Campion Daly, CRPC(r) Chartered Retirement Plan Specialist SM and Portfolio Manager/Financial Advisor
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