Tips for ‘cleaning’ your finances this fall

This fall, don’t just rake the leaves off your lawn and clear clutter out of the coat closet – give your finances a good cleaning, too. Taking the time needed to review your financial situation and accounts can help you ensure you can comfortably afford the retirement living lifestyle you desire. Perhaps you may even uncover hidden costs that can be eliminated for even bigger savings.

As it turns out, a financial cleaning is in order for many Canadian seniors. A study from Equifax found that seniors are taking on debt much faster than the population as a whole, reported CBC News. In fact, as of June 2015, seniors owed an average debt of nearly $15,000.

Don’t know where to start your financial cleaning? Just follow our handy checklist below.

Take a close look at your finances – there may be room to save.

Review minimum payments on your credit cards
It is common among Canadians to only ever make the minimum monthly payment on your credit card. But know that method may actually cost you more money in the long run. When you only pay the minimum, interest still accrues on the full balance. Not to mention, your credit score also takes a hit.

“We know that 30 per cent of people are only paying the minimum on their credit cards,” said Laurie Campbell, CEO of Credit Canada Debt Solutions, in an interview with Global News. “That’s an extremely expensive way of carrying debt.”

Instead, resolve to pay off more than the minimum each month. Even a little bit more makes a difference over time.

“Seniors can get their credit reports for free via mail or online.”

Check your credit score
Order a free credit report to get a sense of where you stand and areas where you can improve. By checking out your credit history, you can also make sure no one is falsely using your credit card information. According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, seniors can get their credit reports for free via mail from Equifax and TransUnion, and you can also view them online.

Enact a cash-only period
It’s a smart idea to start the fall season by going cash-only for a few months, suggests the Ottawa Citizen. This way, you can get a closer look at how you’re really spending your money. It’s so simple to swipe your debit or credit card without giving it a single thought, but when you have to hand over cash, you may think twice about your spending habits.

Look for discounts and incentives
Chances are you’re not taking advantage of all the discounts, tax benefits and incentive programs available to Canadian seniors. For example, seniors are typically eligible for discounts on banking fees, notes the Toronto Star. Check your statements to see if you’re saving—and if not, it’s time to give your bank a ring.

If you’re currently assessing whether you can afford a move to a retirement residence, consider using Chartwell’s Budget Assistant to help identify your current living expenses and evaluate the savings you may realize compared to your current living arrangement.