How do you work in the business of your finances?
Your financial life has a fair amount of ‘stuff’ associated with it. Bills, statements, checks, logins. And if you run a business, add financial reports, tax returns, invoices, payroll. Whether you know it or not, you created a ‘workflow’ to handle financial tasks.
‘Workflow’ may sound like a fancy, technical term, but everything has a workflow. You have a workflow for your laundry. You dig a shirt out of the clean clothes basket, wear it, let it sit on the floor a few days, and eventually dump it into the dirty laundry hamper. When you run out of clothes, you dump the clothes from the dirty hamper into the washer, run the cycle, and forget about it until the next morning. You move the still damp and slightly musty clothes to the dryer and run a cycle that will mostly dry the clothes. When you hear the dryer buzzer, ignore it. Then you look for a shirt and now remember that you had clothes in the dryer, so you move the mostly dry clothes to the clean clothes basket. You wonder why the dryer is taking longer to dry clothes, and remember that you need to clean the lint trap.
Does this remind you of your current financial workflow?
Improve your financial workflow
Understand what it looks like now
On a piece of paper, write down how you deal with your financial stuff now – bills, statements, checks, logins, etc.
- What are all the parts (list bank, credit card, investment, mortgage, and other accounts)?
- Where does the stuff come from (mail, email)?
- What do you need to do with it (pay a bill, file a statement, deposit a check)?
- Where do you put it until you do the thing that you need to do?
- When do you do the thing that you need to do?
- What do you do with the stuff once you’ve done the thing you need to do?
- How long do you keep the various financial stuff?
Maybe you do this from memory or make notes over a month to fully capture what’s going on.
Did you identify parts of your current workflow that work against you? Or make your work more complicated?
Collect for Later Processing
Do you need a place to aggregate the financial stuff?
- Create an email folder or tag to group financial emails
- Designate a spot to collect financial papers that require action
- Create a spot to hold paper documents until you’re ready to file them
Can you remove some items from your financial workflow?
- Consolidate bank accounts or investment accounts
- Rollover old 401(K)s into another account
- Close accounts you no longer use
Can you automate some financial tasks?
- Set up bills to pay automatically
- Automate transfers to your savings or investment account
Can you convert information to electronic format?
- Opt for electronic delivery of statements and bills
- Use a password keeper software for your logins
Everything has a workflow. Not all workflows are good, but every workflow can be improved. For example, I could add ‘hang my clothes in the closet’ to my laundry workflow.