Managing your bank accounts is one of the best ways to maintain financial health. For many people this involves simply balancing the check book at the end of the month, but for others, who have various bank accounts, this work can be a bit more challenging. But this is good work because the only way to get to where you want to be financially is to know where you are now.
The first step to managing your bank accounts is to keep good records. This means getting organized if you are not yet so. How you organize your bank accounts is really up to you. Use the system that works for you and that is not so intimidating that it causes you to slack off from the required monthly work.
Some people are happy using a shoebox or a simple file folder while others will be more satisfied using computer software. As mentioned, it is up to you, but do begin organizing your records.
At a minimum…
you will want to have access to your monthly statements for each of your bank accounts. This might include your checking, savings, money market, CD’s, etc. Some of your bank accounts will require an active reconciliation such as your checking and savings. Others, such as certificates of deposits, may not require any work on your part at all other than updating the current balance.
Depending on how far back you have to go, this initial work can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to complete. Once it is completed, however, you can begin to use your efforts to better enhance your financial health.
One example of how managing your bank accounts can help you better understand where you are today financially is in your checking account statements. If you are constantly finding yourself short of cash at the end of the month, take out your last three or four statements and sit down with pad and pencil.
Go over each statement and make a list of what you are spending your money on each month. It might be easier and more effective if you make a list of broad categories such as food, rent, gasoline, entertainment, lunches out, etc, and then list each check amount under the appropriate category. Work out how much you can afford to save and invest that in an easy access savings account. You might be surprised at how much money you spend on things that you might be able to do without.
After you have set up your files for all of your bank accounts you will need to find a safe and secure place to keep them. If you plan to keep them at home you should invest in a fireproof lock box. This will protect the documents in case of a fire. Another good option is to rent a safety deposit box at the bank. Being organized is one of the most important things you can you to protect your investments, especially when you also have accounts in other countries because this is will give you better ease of sending money abroad.
Regardless of where you store these important bank accounts, make sure that they are protected from the elements and that they are accessible when you need them. You may also want to store your other important papers in the same place. Tax records, insurance policies, and legal papers should all be protected from loss or damage.