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Important Note:

June through November our agency may become prohibited from binding coverage should a “Tropical Disturbance” enter the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea.

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Complex Finances are Often a Bad Sign

Complex Finances are Often a Bad Sign

Take a moment to think about your personal finances. As you mentally review your bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investments, what words would you use to describe your situation? If “complex” is among them, your finances may be in rough shape.

In a recent survey conducted by Chase Blueprint examined the financial lives of more than 1,000 consumers five years after our nation’s economic crash. Among the more interesting findings was a relationship between individual financial health and description of personal finances. In general, the more complex respondents consider their financial situation, the more likely their monetary health had declined over the last few years.

Among individuals surveyed whose finances had improved since the recession, a mere 14 percent described their finances as “very complex.” Twelve percent of those who had maintained a consistent level of financial health since the recession described their situation the same way. However, for those whose economic health had declined, 30 percent considered their financial life to be “very complex.”

Why did these consumers feel this way? According to the company’s analysts, most of those who were dealing with complexity in their personal financial situation had several things in common. These similarities included multiple loans from different sources, multiple financial products, a great deal of fees (from late fees to overdraft charges), and financial illiteracy.

Whether you’ve been actively struggling with financial deterioration or just want to become more engaged in your family’s fiscal management, experts suggest the following steps to reduce complexity.

  1. Prune your accounts. According to creditcards.com, the average U.S. adult carries four credit cards. When you add in checking, savings and investments, a couple may easily be juggling upwards of a dozen different accounts. Closing those you don’t use or don’t need can greatly simplify your perception of your finances—though it’s wise to consult your financial advisor before making any changes.
  1. Choose one financial institution. Rather than deal with multiple banks, find a large financial firm that offers the full range of services and accounts you need. Not only are you likely to receive a few perks as a bigger customer, consolidating everything in once place also makes it easier to get a clear picture of your overall finances.
  1. Automate everything. Determine what you can afford to set aside from each paycheck and set up automatic deposits into your savings and retirement accounts. Eliminate late charges on recurring bills by arranging for auto-pay from your checking account. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of automatic payments, you can still take advantage of the online bill-pay services offered by many banks.
  1. Establish overdraft protection. If you’ve been dinged with expensive overdraft charges in the past, link your checking account to your savings account to avoid inadvertent overdraws.
  1. Create an emergency fund. Nothing adds complexity to one’s financial situation like an unexpected emergency. Ideally, you want to set aside six months of living expenses as protection from unforeseen incidents ranging from a broken water heater to a job loss. However, start with $500—enough to cover a minor household emergency—and add as much as you can afford to each month until you reach your goal.