50 Smartest things to do with your money
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Money management tips
Automate investing and keep an eye on your credit score. Just two smart money management moves.
June 7, 2005: 10:08 AM EDT
By David Futrelle, George Mannes and Cybele Weisser, MONEY Magazine
50 Smartest things to do with your money

NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - Some of these may seem like no-brainers, but all are worth a look, and a few might just change your life.

Automate your financial life

Call your mutual fund or broker to have monthly investments routed from your bank. Do the same for your monthly utility, cell-phone and cable payments. You'll find it easier to budget, and you'll never pay a late fee again.

Know your credit score

Order your credit score from all three major credit bureaus for $45 from Myfico.com. True, you're entitled to free copies of your credit reports this year, but one detail will be missing: the magic number that lenders and insurers use to judge your credit-worthiness. Pay for that.

Don't take it with you

Pass on money to your children now rather than bequeathing it. Gifts of up to $11,000 a year are tax-free. Besides, your kids and grandkids will thank you -- which they can't do if you're dead.

Digitize the financial drudgery

Buy either Quicken or MS Money, software that will help you track your spending, see your portfolio allocations, estimate next year's tax bill -- all the tedious tasks you know you ought to do but never would unless someone made it very easy. Pick up the premium edition of either program for $70 and change at Amazon.com. You'll spend a couple of hours on initial setup, but from then on, you'll be amazed at what you can do with your money, once you know what you're doing with your money.

Have a financial plan

Hire a financial planner to review your retirement and college savings plans. At www.garrettplanningnetwork.com and www.myfinancialadvice.com, you'll find planners who work by the hour (usually $150 to $200 per). Getting on track will take eight to 10 hours up front, plus an hour or two for a yearly checkup.

Stop assuming you're immortal

Hire a lawyer to craft a will, a durable power of attorney, a living will and a health-care proxy. It may cost $1,500 to $2,000 (more for large or complicated estates), but could save your heirs thousands in taxes and fees. Unless, of course, you live forever.

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