Now's the time to get your finances in shape

January 3, 2013 9:08:03 PM PST
Besides health, another common item on those New Year's resolution lists is money. Consumer Reports explains why now's the time to get your finances in shape.

Ten years after Karen Mendelsohn and her husband, Harold, were married, he went to take a run and never came back.

"He suffered a sudden heart attack. It was horrible. And they couldn't revive him," said Mendelsohn.

The second blow was that neither she nor their two young children were named as the beneficiaries on his pension. He had neglected to switch it from his parents. And when Karen asked them...

"They said, 'No.' They said if our son left us as the beneficiaries, he wanted us to have the money. It breaks my heart," said Mendelsohn.

Consumer Reports says financial oversights are all too common.

"Our survey found that in the last five years, 86 percent of respondents had not checked or updated important estate documents, including wills and beneficiary designations," said Tobie Stanger.

Consumer Reports confirms that "money stumbles" are common with married couples. Its survey found with 70 percent, only one spouse knew key details about their accounts.

"And if you are over 60 and have adult children, it's time to let them know where that important information is as well," said Stanger.

Other money stumbles include 50 percent of homeowners did not have enough insurance to cover full replacement of personal property at today's prices. And more than 70 percent didn't have at least three months of living expenses set aside in case of job loss or illness.

"You may not solve everything all at once, but just taking those first simple steps may save you and your family a lot of heartache down the road," said Stanger.

As for Mendelsohn, it took a lawsuit to get her husband's death benefits. She says she hopes telling her story will encourage others to get their finances in order.

In addition to regularly updating estate planning documents, Consumer Reports recommends designating a file cabinet or safety deposit box for your will, insurance policies, and a list of all important account and investment information.