For some of us, nothing strikes more fear in our hearts than the thoughts of tax season. For many of those same folks, who don’t enjoying skiing, snowshoeing, skating or any of the other “S” words associated with winter (and by the way I can think of a few choice four letter words that also start with “S” but are unprintable here) February basically sucks! There’s snow on the ground (unless you live in Florida) you know the taxman is coming (or tax person, to be politically correct) and, let’s face it, the sun rarely shines. Rather than becoming one with the groundhog, burrowing underground for all but Groundhog Day when you pop out to predict the weather, why not take this time of year to plan ahead and work on getting your financial house in order?

When it’s too cold, cloudy and miserable to be outside, I can’t think of a better time to dig out your boxes of receipts, bank statements, important papers from employers and/or the government and spend an otherwise bleary day organizing your paperwork. Such is the universal loathing of February that even employers, investment houses, the government and banks are all mandated to provide you with all the forms you need to complete your taxes and financial planning on or before the end of January or the end of February depending on where you live. For once it appears, the government is thinking of us – knowing we have nothing better to do – they’re actually trying to provide us what we need in plenty of time so we have something to do in February. See how nice they are! Ok, so maybe not really, I’m sure they’re main goal is motivated more by facilitating the means for us to PAY THEM FASTER! But I digress…….

If math makes you miserable and financial planning makes you faint of heart, here are Amintro’s “Top 5 Tips” to help get your financial house in order, mind you, full disclosure – they come from someone who loathes finances!

Top 5 Tips to Get Your Financial House in Order

  1. Filing is your Friend

Quite possibly one of the easiest things you can do for yourself is to purchase an accordion file folder with at least 12 slots and if nothing else, put all of your receipts, statements, investment notifications etc in the month the expense was incurred and/or statement received. At the very least, your files will already have some semblance of order come tax time, if only by a month. It’s a start and if the thought of doing your taxes drives you to drink, it’s a simple, effective way to get organized.

  1. Create a Calendar

We rely on our calendars these days for just about everything so why not for our financial planning too? In addition to filing your receipts month by month consider also creating a dedicated financial calendar with key dates and reminders to track all your financial information accordingly. This will also help you to track and pay any monthly, quarterly or bi-annual commitments too.

  1. Budgeting for Beginners

If you have been busy for the last few years working, ferrying the kids to activities and a myriad of the many other things that occupy us as adults but now you have a bit more time on your hands – perhaps even due to retirement – chances are you’re going to have to rethink your financial situation. All the more reason that now is as good a time as any to begin budgeting for your future. A budget allows you to plan for expenses AND all the fun things you might want to do (maybe with an Amintro friend) and a budget will help to ensure appropriate planning measures are in place to follow a fully realized, annual financial plan.

  1. If Budget Allows – Pass the Buck!

Let’s face it, for some of us (like maybe me for example!) no amount of organizing my files is going to cure me of filing phobia. I’m certain I will forget something and the aforementioned “tax person” will come knocking on my door. If you are in a position to do so, consider one of the many firms that offer tax planning or tax completion services and let the professionals handle it for you. If you’ve already done step one, they might not even charge you as much for having to organize all those darn receipts!

  1. Professional Planning all year round.

Going one step further, if budgeting isn’t for you and/or you’d prefer not to do any of the work yourself, hiring a professional planner and/or working with your bank professional will alleviate almost all your February angst because a professional will ensure you have a plan in place, your paperwork is pristine and all you have to do come tax season is sign on the dotted line. For those of us with a severe case of “aritmeticaphobia” this might be worth the price you’ll pay for professional services!

Actually, while we are on the topic, did you know fear of math is a real phenomenon? It’s not actually called aritmeticophobia but “mathemephobia.” Those diagnosed with mathemephobia frequently suffer from an inability to calculate sales tax while standing in line at the register, figure out discount prices when the clothing rack says “all items on this rack 20% off” and typically over tip the server at a restaurant for fear of tipping too little because they can’t do the math! But I digress……again……

If we have jointly learned anything today, I think the biggest favour one can do themselves is to simply stay organized. A great file management system and having a budget in place – to at least serve as a guideline from which you shouldn’t stray very often – are keys to being able to learn how to manage your retirement finances. Don’t be like the groundhog and bury your head in the ground only coming up for air once during the month of February. Instead, use the snow, sleet and ice as a perfect excuse to hunker down, not underground, but instead, putting your financial affairs in order. Come tax time – you’ll be glad you did.