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Personal Finance Advice: Organize Your Finances After a Move

Written by Ellen Gilmer on November 4, 2013 in Family Money  |   No comments

There’s a seemingly endless to do list when you’re moving out of state. Between packing, job hunting, and searching for the perfect new home, personal finance details can easily be lost in the shuffle. Vanessa Wendt, a conflicts specialist for a law firm in Washington,…

personal finance adviceThere’s a seemingly endless to do list when you’re moving out of state. Between packing, job hunting, and searching for the perfect new home, personal finance details can easily be lost in the shuffle.

Vanessa Wendt, a conflicts specialist for a law firm in Washington, D.C., moved from Cincinnati five months ago—and she’s still working through her checklist.

Notifying creditors of the move? Check. Adjusting her financial plan to account for D.C.’s higher cost of living? Check. But opening a local bank account and rolling over her retirement plan? Still on the list.

Personal finance experts agree that paying careful attention to your banking details during a move can be a crucial task for keeping immediate and long-term finances in order.

Notify your creditors of your move

First things first. The experts say to start by updating your address on the U.S. Postal Service website. The service charges $1 to a credit card to verify your identity, and it will forward your mail for up to a year.

But don’t stop there. You should also reach out to creditors directly. For example, most credit card companies allow customers to change their address information online or over the phone and will then send a confirmation notice of the change.

Andrea Travillian, who runs the personal finance program Take A Smart Step, recommends immediately notifying creditors of an address change to avoid missing statements, bills, and other important notifications.

“No sense in waiting and getting your mail delayed,” Travillian says. “If you have done an address forwarding with the post office, many of [your creditors] will be notified anyway, but go ahead and get it done as soon as you can.”

Wendt says the process was a bit of a hassle, and it took some time for her creditors to get on the same page. “I actually had two changes of address within six months, so it was a pain,” she notes. “After a couple of months, though, I believe everyone has my correct address now!”

Consider whether you need to open a new bank account

If your current bank does not have a branch in your new city, you may be able to simply rely on its online banking services and maintain your account.

But if you decide to switch banks, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based financial adviser Brian Frederick recommends opening the new account before closing the first one.

Look through several old bank statements and make note of automatic withdrawals. Then, reassign those payments to your new account. Leave the first account open for a few months with some funds to cover any lingering charges.

Don’t forget about your retirement accounts

Along with banking changes, many recent movers will want to revisit their retirement plans. If you’ve started a new job and have an existing 401(k), consider whether you want to merge it with your new employer’s plan.

“Unless your old 401(k) has really bad choices, there is no rush,” says Travillian. “There are many other important things to tackle first. Get unpacked and settled in and then start the rollover process.”

Just be sure not to forget about it, as procrastinating on the task may eventually lead to more problems.

“The stress of worrying or having oversight with two retirement accounts goes away if the individual decides to merge the assets into [his or her] new employer plan,” says Xavier Epps, owner of XNE Financial Advising LLC.

Get other financial details settled

With the basics squared away, you will begin to see other financial details cropping up. For example, did you change your auto insurance to reflect your new locale? Did you consider the college savings plans that are available in your new state?

Experts also recommend having your will or estate plan reviewed by a local attorney. “Different states have different laws and taxes,” explains Howard Pressman, a Virginia-based financial planner. “It would be a shame to see your intentions disregarded because of different state laws.”

Finally, be sure to keep track of all expenses during the move and to save all of your receipts. If you’re moving for work, you may be able to deduct those expenses when you file your tax return.

Ellen M. Gilmer is a journalist based in Portland, Ore. She reports on a range of issues, including energy policy, personal finance and health and fitness. Her work has appeared in EnergyWire, Scientific American, Active Life DC, The New York Times, The Oregonian and more.

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