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Money: Keeping track

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POSTED: February 8, 2007 5:05 a.m.
You can lose your gloves. You can lose your keys. But you’d never lose track of your investments, would you?
Actually, you might be surprised at just how many people do forget about investments, or leave them behind when they move. Every state maintains unclaimed-property offices to deal with millions of dollars worth of stocks, bonds, bank accounts, un-cashed checks, pensions, 401(k)s and IRAs.
To avoid losing track of your financial assets, follow these suggestions:
Keep records of all bank accounts and investments. It would probably take just a few minutes for you to write up a list of all your bank accounts and investments. And you don’t have to go into great detail, either – just include the type of account and where it’s currently held. Make sure you share this list with a family member.
Inform banks and brokers when you move or change names. Notify your bank, broker, 401(k) administrator, insurance company and any other financial service agency you work with when you move or if you change your name due to marriage or divorce.
Cash checks promptly. Whenever you receive stock dividends or distributions from a retirement plan, cash the checks promptly. The longer you leave these checks lying around, the greater the likelihood that you’ll forget about them. Of course, in the case of dividends, if you don’t need the income you are probably better off by automatically reinvesting them, as this builds the number of shares you own, but if you’re going to accept the checks, take care of them right away.
Don’t give up. Even if you do lose track of investments or bank accounts, it doesn’t mean they are gone forever. Try to “retrace your steps” back to where you think you might have held your accounts. Most financial services providers will do what they can to help you. As an alternative, you might want to visit the web site of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (www.unclaimed.org). There are no guarantees, but this organization can at least help get you started in the process of finding your missing assets.
Consolidate Your Accounts. Apart from the suggestions listed above, there’s one more step you can take that can potentially help you keep close tabs on your financial assets. Specifically, you might want to consider consolidating as many of your accounts as possible at one financial services institution. A full-service company can offer you access to investments, banking services, mortgages, credit cards – virtually any financial vehicle you might need. With all your account and tax statements coming from the same place, you should find it relatively easy to keep track of  your holdings. Furthermore, by consolidating your assets at a single financial institution and working with a single financial professional who knows your needs and goals, you may actually end up improving your overall financial strategy. Why? Because if you maintain several accounts without a central focus, you could end up with redundant or inappropriate investments. At the same time, you could end up paying more than what you need for services. So, keep track of your investments, stay organized and consider consolidating your accounts. You work too hard to build your financial assets to let them slip away.
Evans is an investment representative with Edward Jones in Richmond Hill. She can be reached at 756-5113.
 

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