Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less
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38 Ways to Fix Your Finances in 30 Minutes or Less

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Hey, can you spare a few minutes? We know you’re busy, but chances are you can set aside 30 minutes to tackle some of these quickie tasks. Our collection of financial fixes—designed to save you money, get you on track to reach a goal or simplify your life—run the gamut from trimming your cable or phone bill (15 minutes or less) to applying for a more rewarding rewards card (30 minutes).

See Also: 10 Financial Decisions You Will Regret Forever

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 2 of 39

Make a Date With a Financial Planner

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Visit Let’s Make A Plan or NAPFA to locate planners in your area. (For a planner who will do a onetime checkup, you can also search at the Garrett Planning Network.) Research a few to see whose skills and resources mesh with your situation and set up a free,

See Also: Find the Right Financial Adviser

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 3 of 39

Set Up a Budget

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With budgeting tool Mint.com, you can get a big-picture view of your finances. Link to your financial accounts by entering your online user names and passwords; you can also put in information about your home and car to get estimates of their value and track your overall net worth. Set limits for how much you want to spend monthly in various categories and receive alerts when you go over budget.

See Also: 64 Valuable Things You Can Get for Free

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 4 of 39

Protect Important Documents

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If your critical documents are residing in a drawer or a folder, shop for a home document safe to help protect them from a fire, flood or theft. Look for a document safe that has been tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Intertek (ELT) and is built to withstand at least 30 minutes of fire up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit. A safe with about 1 cubic foot of space typically costs between $100 and $300. (Before stashing the documents away in your new safe, take photographs or scan the papers, and make extra copies of electronic files to store in the cloud.)

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 5 of 39

Cash In Loose Change

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At Coinstar.com, search for a nearby Coinstar kiosk (often found at grocery stores). The machine will sort and count coins for you, and cashing them in is free if you redeem the money as a gift card from companies such as Amazon.com, Applebee’s, Best Buy, Home Depot, iTunes, Lowe’s and Starbucks.

See Also: 30 Ways to Earn Extra Cash

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 6 of 39

Find the Best Savings Account for You

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Go to DepositAccounts.com and enter your state, how much cash you have to save, and how long you plan to hold money in savings. The tool will list high-interest account options in several categories, such as “Keep It Simple” (using a single savings account) and “Mix and Match” (dividing between certificates of deposit and a savings account). Visit the bank’s website to open an account and transfer money.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 7 of 39

Run a Credit Checkup

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Start by visiting CreditKarma.com, where you can sign up to see free credit-report infor­mation from credit agencies Equifax and TransUnion, as well as your VantageScore credit scores from each bureau. (You can also sign up to receive notifications of changes in your TransUnion report.) Then go to CreditScore.com which provides a free FICO credit score and credit report information from credit agency Experian. Finally, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see free copies of your credit report from each of the three major bureaus.

See Also: 7 Habits of People With Excellent Credit Scores

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 8 of 39

Get a More Rewarding Rewards Card

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In our Best Rewards Credit Cards for Your Wallet slide show, review our roundup of the best rewards cards and choose one that best suits your spending patterns. If you have good credit, you could be earning 2% on every purchase you make with a credit card—and up to 6% in certain categories. Visit the card issuer’s website to fill out an application.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 9 of 39

Secure Your Smartphone

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If your phone isn’t password-protected, set a lock-screen pattern, PIN or password. Consider adding an extra layer of security to apps with sensitive information. Android users will need an app such as AppLock to password-protect individual apps, but iPhone users can do it by selecting “Settings,” “General” and then “Restrictions” to set a password and apply it to certain apps. Protect against a misplaced, lost or stolen phone by enabling location-access services. Apple users need to sign in on the Find iPhone app using their Apple ID. Android users can access the feature by signing into their account. Windows users should go to Microsoft.com. You’ll be able to track your phone’s location and remotely erase your data from any web browser.

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See Also: How to Cut Smartphone Costs

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 10 of 39

Set Up a Password Manager

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A password manager such as Lastpass will tie all of your passwords together and store them in a file that’s secured by a single, ultra-secure master password. Download the program and type in a master password. The service gathers and encrypts passwords and other private information. It’s free for one device, but you’ll need the premium version ($12 per year) for multiple devices.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 11 of 39

Protect Your Wi-Fi Network

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See the instruction manual that came with your router or the manufacturer’s website for instructions to turn on encryption and the firewall and keep your internet connection secure. Then change your wireless network’s default name and password. Also consider turning off “network name broadcasting” so that your network won’t appear to others in your area, or set up a MAC address filter, which limits access to the network to devices that you approve.

See Also: Speed Up Your Home Wi-Fi

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 12 of 39

Switch to a Better Online Broker

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See Kiplinger’s ranking of the best online brokers to find the best fit for you. Fill out an application online, then stay on the new broker’s site to initiate a transfer of assets from your old brokerage firm or bank. Switching over an entire account is easiest, but you can select individual securities or cash. Some mutual funds may not be eligible to transfer—call your new broker beforehand to find out.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 13 of 39

Trim Your Fund Bills

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Log in to your account and click on a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund in your portfolio. Find the expense ratio, which is the annual fee charged by the fund. Use your broker’s screening tool to find similar funds with lower expense ratios. For example, you could swap a large-capitalization stock fund for Schwab U.S. Large Cap ETF (SCHX). Closely tracking Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, the ETF has razor-thin expenses of 0.03%.

See Also: 28 Best Mutual Funds for Your Retirement

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 14 of 39

Harvest Tax Losses

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Sell your losers and you can deduct the losses against capital gains, as well as use up to $3,000 in losses to offset taxable income. Still like the investment? Swap it for a similar one. But don’t violate the “wash sale” rule, which requires a 30-day wait to buy a “substantially identical” security.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 15 of 39

Cut Your Investment Fees

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Link your investment accounts to FeeX, a free online tool, to see a breakdown of all the charges you’re paying, including underlying mutual fund and ETF expenses, trading commissions, and custodial and advisory fees. The tool suggests similar, lower-fee investments, and it shows potential savings if you switch funds. Personal Capital, an online budgeting and investing tool, can also run a fee checkup.

See Also: Paying Money-Management Fees from Your IRA

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 16 of 39

Open an HSA

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If you have a high-deductible health insurance policy and your employer has a preferred provider, get the enrollment form for a health savings account from your HR department. That may be the best option if it’s the only way to qualify for a company match. If your employer doesn’t match contributions, you can open an HSA at any financial institution that offers them. Compare fees and investments at HSAsearch.com.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 17 of 39

Pay Less for Life Insurance

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Provide information about your health, age, contact information, length of term (from 10 to 30 years) and amount of coverage at AccuQuote. You’ll get term insurance price quotes from several companies. If prices are lower than for your current policy (or if you can lock in a low rate for a longer period), then choose an insurer and apply online. (The final price depends on the results of a medical exam.) Or call AccuQuote at 800-442-9899 to get a quote, especially if you have medical issues or coverage questions.

See Also: Guide to Buying Life Insurance at Every Stage of Life

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 18 of 39

Share Financial Info With Your Family

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Create a master list that lets your spouse know how to get into your accounts and where to find important documents if you become incapacitated or die first (you may want to share the list with adult children, too). Store the list online, using a document-storage account such as Dropbox.com and give your spouse the user name and password to the account. Also keep a paper copy of your information.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 19 of 39

Size Up Your Retirement Stash

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Go to Kiplinger's Retirement Savings Calculator and fill in information about your salary, accumulated savings and future sources of retirement income (including Social Security benefits and any pension income). Our calculator estimates how much you need to save each month to reach your goal.

See Also: 9 Great Places to Retire Abroad

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 20 of 39

Tweak the Choices in Your 401(k)

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Log in to your account and go to the page that lets you manage your money. Look for the appropriate button or category—say, “Change My Investments” or “Change My Paycheck Deduction.” For 2016, you can contribute up to $18,000 to your 401(k) or similar employer-based plan, or up to $24,000 if you are 50 or older.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 21 of 39

Get a Fatter Paycheck

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If you’ve been lending money to Uncle Sam—that is, getting a big tax refund each year—use Kiplinger’s withholding calculator to reduce your withholding. Consult your 2015 tax return and latest pay stub to fill in the blanks; you’ll have to make some educated guesses about other income and expenses. The calculator tells you how many allowances to claim. Then go to your human resources department and ask to fill out a revised W-4 form (or download the form at www.irs.gov).

See Also: How to Fill Out a W-4 Form

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 22 of 39

Reassess Your Risk Tolerance

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To create an investment plan that suits your goals and fits your personality, use Vanguard’s Investor Questionnaire as a starting point. Gather estimates of your annual Social Security or pension benefits and the balances of your 401(k), IRA and other investment accounts, then answer 11 questions about your time horizon and your tolerance for risk.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 23 of 39

Get a Better Deal On Cable

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Is your cable or internet service bill creeping upward? Call the customer-service number for your service provider and ask whether you qualify for any promotional deals. If you don’t succeed with a phone call, check whether the company has a presence on Twitter. You may get what you want by requesting a discount via tweets directed to the company’s account.

See Also: 6 Reasons You Hate Your Cable Company

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 24 of 39

Reshop Your Cell-Phone Plan

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At this Wall Street Journal interactive tool, select the number of phone lines, voice minutes, messages and gigabytes of data you need per month. You’ll see options from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

See Also: How to Reshop Your Cell-Phone Plan

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 25 of 39

Put Your Savings On Autopilot

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To squirrel away money before you have a chance to miss it, create automatic, recurring transfers from checking to savings and investment accounts. Log in to your checking account and look for an option to transfer funds. Enter routing and account numbers for your savings account and choose the frequency and amount for each transfer. Then set up a transfer to your investment account, too. Watch out for any fees that your bank may charge for transferring to external accounts; you may be able to avoid fees by initiating the transfer through the savings or investment account instead.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 26 of 39

Save Extra Money With an App

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Wells Fargo's Qapital gives your savings a boost by automatically collecting small chunks of your money for you. Link your checking account to the app and create rules that will prompt transfers to Qapital’s savings account (held by Wells Fargo).

See Also: What to Know About Interest-Earning Checking Accounts

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 27 of 39

Never Bounce a Check Again

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Check your bank’s website for an option to link your checking account to a savings account. If you draw too much from the checking account, the bank will transfer money from the backup account (you may pay a fee of $10 to $15).

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 28 of 39

Search for Lost Money

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Go to MissingMoney.com and enter your name and state of residence in the search fields. If you have unclaimed property in state or local government records—such as cash in a forgotten bank account, a utility deposit or investments—your name will appear along with details on the property and directions on how to file a claim.

See Also: 8 Places to Find Free Money

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 29 of 39

Copy Everything in Your Wallet

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If your purse or wallet is lost or stolen, having copies or scans of the front and back of your driver’s license, credit cards, and membership and loyalty cards will make the process of suspending accounts and replacing cards go more smoothly. Keep paper copies in a safe place, and store scanned PDFs on your computer and back it up.

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 30 of 39

Consolidate Loyalty Cards

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Slim down your wallet or key ring without missing out on rewards or discounts with a mobile wallet, such as Android Pay, Samsung Pay or Apple Pay’s Wallet, or download the free Key Ring app (Apple and Android). Use the camera on your phone to scan loyalty cards into the mobile wallet or app. The next time you’re in the store, show the digital version of your card’s barcode.

See Also: Mobile Wallets: A Smarter Way to Pay?

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Smart Financial Moves You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less | Slide 31 of 39

Sell Old Gift Cards

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At GiftCardGranny, you can sell the card to a partner site at the offered rate or list it for sale at a price you choose (you’ll pay a fee of about 10% to 15% to the listing site). You’ll receive a check in the mail or a credit to your PayPal or bank account.

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