Ron Lieber, a columnist for the New York Times, spent one day focusing on the financial tasks that he had been neglected. He calls this day a “fiscal health day,” like the mental health days everyone needs to take once in a while to remain a functional human being. I think this is a great idea. While I have taken similar financial health days in the past, I feel there is always more I could have done.
Lieber cataloged and documented the tasks he chose to accomplish. This is a good start for your financial health day.
- Open a high yield savings account. The author chose SmartyPig for its high interest rates while recognizing the account’s monthly deposit requirement.
- Apply for a cash back credit card. Like Smithee, Lieber prefers the Schwab Bank Invest First Visa Signature Card.
- Insure your assets. The author used this opportunity to shop for more affordable insurance for the family jewelry. If I were to take a financial health day, I would do the same for my automobile and home insurance.
- Optimize your services. You will need a good portion of the day if you plan on calling your phone or cable company to negotiate.
- Hire an assistant. While Ron Leiber had a very specific need. He hired a nanny tax service to take care of the financial paperwork involved with paying a baby sitter. Even Schwab helped out by setting up automatic direct deposits. It may not be a nanny tax service that you need, however. You may want to research outsourcing some of the tasks that take up the time that could be better spent on other activities, as long as it is financially worthwhile. I might be exploring this in the future if I decide to hire a virtual assistant.
- Create or update your will. I don’t have a will, but the only one relying on my income for survival is my cat, Rupert. Yet I may be underestimating my need for a will.
- Organize your financial paperwork. Ron Lieber used the opportunity to arrange his family’s health insurance paperwork for a successful campaign against the companies in the future. I am not a terribly organized person, and it usually takes a block of dedicated time for me to reorganize.
- Leave information for those who follow after you. Although this is a morbid thought, if something happens to you, it’s important for your family to know how to access your financial accounts. Merrill Lynch offers a convenient form that you can complete and keep with your records.
- Automatic charitable giving. Here is a good way to have a positive effect on the world. Lieber signed up with NetworkForGood.org which allows him to put his charitable giving on autopilot for a small fee. I have a few non-profits that deduct monthly payments but I could improve this by setting up automatic grants from my charitable gift fund.
- Use your gift certificates and gift cards. Even if they don’t expire or lose value over time, the companies that offer these gift cards are making the use of your money, hoping you never come into the store to claim your merchandise. Collect your gift cards and use them on your financial health day.
If you have the luxury of turning your financial health day into a two-day money spree or a week-long retreat, you may be able to tackle more.
- Choose a path to get rid of your debt. Whether you like the debt snowball, the debt avalanche, or some combination, formulate your plan and put it into action.
- Review your credit report and score. You are entitled to three free credit reports each year, one from each reporting bureau, through AnnualCreditReport.com, not the industry’s scammy lookalike, FreeCreditReport.com. Review each credit report for errors that could affect your score and your abililty to qualify for loans. You can get your TransUnion credit score for free through CreditKarma. I check once a month, and I’ve seen my score drop from 779 to 774 since October 2008.
- Get ready for your next employment. If you work for someone else, part of your employment status is out of your control. No matter how hard you work and how well you perform for the benefit of some organization, you are always in jeopardy of losing your job. Be ready for the next opportunity by keeping your resume and portfolio current.
Please share if you have any other tips for beneficial activities on a “financial health day.” Thanks to Ron Lieber for the inspiration.
Updated August 29, 2011 and originally published July 7, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.