Everywhere there are signs of Spring, from buds appearing overnight on trees to birds chirping. Spring is when we clean, straighten, and organize our houses. And it’s also a great time for some financial spring cleaning to make sure your financial situation is in order and your information safe and secure from theft or fraud. This is especially relevant as we re-enter a more “normal” environment and begin to venture out to stores, dine out, and travel. Fortunately, some basic steps can help you get organized and safeguard your finances.
Tips to help you get your financial (and other) information organized and up to date:
The taxman is coming – the Federal deadline for filing, and for Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island state taxes, was extended to May 17, 2021. All tax forms and payments must be made by the deadline. If you are filing for an extension, this is also due by May 17, although any payments must still be made by then. In addition, if you make estimated tax payments, the Q1 deadline was not extended, so check with your Accountant to make sure you met the April 15th deadline. You also have until May 17th to make contributions to individual retirement plans and health savings accounts, so if you have not made a contribution, it’s not too late.
Keep your information current and handy – it’s always a good idea to create a centralized repository of family financial, medical, legal, trust and estate information in case you, a family member, or an advisor needs to access it quickly. You should also check whether account information, healthcare, wills, or other documents need updating. Some items to think about gathering include bank and investment account statements, any medical directives, powers of attorney and living will information, mortgage and loan statements, trust documents, and emergency contact information.
Revisit your situation – the past year may have brought major changes to your life or caused you to rethink your priorities. If there have been shifts in your financial, business, or personal situation, this may affect your investment strategy. Perhaps your marital situation changed, your family has grown, or you are thinking of retiring early. Your relationship manager can help determine the impact this will have on your plan and adjust it to align with your goals.
And some tips to keep your financial information secure:
Make sure your passwords are strong – create unique passwords for your financial accounts and change them when prompted. A combination of cases, numbers, and special symbols make them much harder to steal. A secure password manager can help you keep track of your passwords. If possible, use two-factor authentication, through a hard or soft token. And don’t ever give anyone your passwords.
Use the internet safely – make sure your devices are up to date with the latest security updates and protection. Try to use websites that begin with https, which indicates it is a secure website (http is not). If you are out and about, you may be tempted to do a little online shopping but wait until you are home on your own secure network to prevent hackers on a public network from stealing your information and more.
Don’t fall for scams, online or off – not surprisingly, online fraud attempts increased significantly last year. According to TransUnion’s latest Global Consumer Pulse Study conducted in February and March of 2021, more than 33% of global consumers have been solicited with fraudulent digital schemes linked to COVID-19. These would-be thieves have become increasingly creative in their quest to steal your information, identity, and money. If you get an email, phone call, or text supposedly from your financial institution, a credit card company, the IRS, store, or other “official” source asking for personal information or for you to call back before creditors are called, do not respond. Companies do not ask for information that way. Respond by finding the company’s legitimate email or phone number on its website and contact the company to check the source and inform the company of possible fraud. In terms of the IRS, they only communicate with taxpayers via mail so you should never respond to a caller claiming they are from the IRS.
In summary, while we may soon put the worst of COVID-19 behind us, this Spring is a great time to make sure your finances are secure and that you have planned for what may come next. At Washington Trust Wealth Management, our team is here to help you with any assistance you need in your financial spring cleaning efforts. Please reach out with any questions you may have.