Getting Organized

End Paperwork Paralysis Once and For All

End Paperwork Paralysis Once and For All

If the thought of official forms makes your palms sweat or fills you with dread, it’s time for a big, deep breath. Yes, paperwork can be intimidating—and in our digital age, picking up a pen can feel downright foreign—but putting it off could delay your financial goals. The good news: Paperwork doesn’t have to be such a headache. Got your pen? Let’s get started.

You plan to get to those retirement forms...later

When your employer hands you a stack of papers to sign up for a 401(k), it’s tempting to shove them in a drawer for a rainy day. But let this stat spur you into action: One in three Americans has nothing saved for retirement, according to a 2016 report.1 So the earlier you start, the better. Though enrollment paperwork isn’t lengthy, it can definitely be tricky. A certified financial planner can help create an investment portfolio that makes sense for you. Another smart move that can save you from filling out more forms in the future: Auto-enroll in annual increases. If you increase by 1 percent each year, the amount will seem so small that you likely won’t even miss it from your paycheck.

You’re worried about making a mistake on those tax forms

You may use an accountant or tax prep software to actually file each April, but how many exemptions you claim when you start a new job or have a baby can mean the difference between owing Uncle Sam a huge chunk of change or getting a refund. Nervous about making a mistake? You can call and ask the IRS all your questions. Or, give your accountant a ring and double-check that you’re filling out those employment forms correctly. Keep in mind you can always adjust your paycheck withholdings, so if you put down the wrong number of exemptions, a quick trip to HR is all it takes to get back on track.

You feel like you need a medical degree to decode this bill

The only thing worse than being sick is getting hit with a surprise medical bill you can’t decipher once you’re well. But if you’re not sure what the bill means, be sure to get an explanation before you blindly send your payment—and so you can be better prepared for next time. If you’re not sure your procedure or appointment is covered, don’t just hope for the best. Call your insurance provider and have them walk you through what steps need to be completed so you’re not stuck footing a bill you haven’t budgeted for. For example, if your insurer requires preapproval to see a specialist at a particular hospital, get it before scheduling your appointment (and keep the records in a file you can access when it’s time to submit your claim).

You aren’t sure where to even begin with your mortgage paperwork

You could probably wallpaper a small mansion with all the official forms it took to purchase it. But before you resign to being a renter for life, consider this: A team of pros is ready to help you navigate the paperwork (and yes—it will all get done). Just as a real estate agent can help you find your new home, an experienced mortgage officer can walk you through all of your loan options and patiently answer any questions, to make sure you understand exactly where you’re putting your John Hancock.

When automation can help

Looking to eliminate a few pieces of paperwork? Follow these four steps to automate your finances.

1  “1 in 3 Americans Have $0 Saved for Retirement,” March 14, 2016, GOBankingRates

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