Many of us will begin the new year with high hopes of making changes to our daily lives. It’s the season of resolutions both large and small. With the best of intentions, we are going to head to the gym, eat healthier, quit smoking, and save more money. However, in most cases, these ideas don’t make it past January 31. Given that 2020 is still visible in the rearview mirror, rather than make a grand plan, maybe it’s best to prepare for the months ahead. Take into consideration your financial preparedness, your emergency action plan and your organization. Below are a few simple things that you can work on to make sure you are ready to roll out your new resolutions and be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances, courtesy of 2021.
January is a great time to examine your overall financial picture and see where you are to start the year. Outline your budget, list all your debts, and take inventory of your checking and savings accounts (liquid assets) to form the whole picture of your finances. From here, you can identify items that can be cut from your budget or find new ways to add to your emergency fund (You do have an emergency fund, right?).
You can also request to sit-down with the Customer Service Rep or Branch Manager at your local First Keystone community office for a full review of your accounts, to make sure your money is in the best type of account and that you are taking advantage of all the services offered. Another option is contacting your credit card companies to ask if they offer additional rewards or services that you are not currently utilizing which could help you in the future.
Will and Power of Attorney
It’s difficult to think about, but now is the best time to review your Will and Power of Attorney (POA) documentation. Did you have any big life changes last year that would affect these documents? Make sure you consider all additions or subtractions to your assets, as well as changes in your immediate family, such as marriage or the birth of a child. Do a bit of research on your own to determine if you need to consult a lawyer to help guide you on what works best for your situation.
Make sure you have easy access to the original documents (and copies, in some cases) and that your representatives also know where to get their hands on your paperwork in case of emergency. It is also a good idea to provide a copy of your POA to your financial institution in case the Agent needs to access your accounts on your behalf in case of an emergency. And make sure you continue to keep the documentation updated at your financial institution as well.
So, what do you do with important documents anyway? Birth certificates, passports, deeds, car titles, Wills, POAs, etc. are all extremely important documents that must be organized and properly stored so they are safe and easily accessible, should the need arise. There are many different options including safe deposit boxes, fire safes, locking file cabinets, etc. Whatever your storage preference is, make sure you know where all these documents are and that they are easy to grab in case you need them in a hurry.
Emergency Action Plan
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but emergencies, disasters and accidents are just facts of life. Now is the best time to review your disaster recovery/escape plan for your home. Sit down with the other people living in your house and develop a plan for the worst-case scenarios. Then, prepare for them. You may decide to invest in a generator in case you lose power or your plan may be as simple as having jugs of water and canned goods on hand. Identify emergency exits in your home and make sure you have fire ladders and pre-panned escape routes for your family. Select a spot where you keep important papers and the things you would absolutely need to grab in an emergency. If you need guidance or additional resources visit Ready.gov for more information. While this seems like a lot of preparation for something that might never happen, it is better to prepare and not need it than to be in a situation where you have no plan.
With everyone spending so much time at home, the need to clean more frequently arises. The beginning of the year is a great time to make sure that your appliances and cleaners are in tip-top shape. Take the time to clean your dryer vents, washing machine, and dishwasher. Pull the fridge out to clean the vents and underneath. Remove the dust from ceiling fan blades that would otherwise be circulated throughout the house. You can even take your vacuum apart and give it a once over to remove dust and hair. There’s no shortage of things that you can clean every day, but take some time at the beginning of this year to do some general upkeep on your most used appliances and tools. Cleaning out the dryer vents and fridge vents can help prevent fires within the home as well!
These are just a few simple things that you can work on in the first month or two of the year to make sure you are ready in case something unexpected gets thrown your way this year. It’s also a great way to stay productive and keep organized. Here at First Keystone Community Bank, we wish you and your family a wonderful New Year and we hope that 2021 brings you nothing but happiness and new opportunities.