How many times have you had a close call while driving on a highway? Imagine one day you can’t avoid it and you are badly injured or worse. If you are unable to work and generate your typical income, would your family be able to make ends meet? If you are not there for your family, would they have the lifestyle you hope?

Everything you have worked for is constantly under threat. Events that can significantly impact your personal finances occur daily and virtually everyone is susceptible. Some of these risks include:

Loss of employment or business income

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Significant illnesses

Auto or other accidents

Identity fraud

Personal liability lawsuits

The odds are, you know at least one person who has been affected by one of these circumstances.  If you are not confident you are protected, then you need to act. Here are five simple steps you can take right now to protect yourself and your loved ones:

#1        Stay liquid – depending on your individual income sources and expense habits, generally you should keep 4-6 months of expenses in savings at all times.  This will prove crucial in the event you suffer from an unexpected loss of income.

#2        Monitor your credit report and banking activity – everyone in New Jersey can get their credit report for free each year.  See below for the state government link to obtain yours.

               http://www.state.nj.us/dobi/division_consumers/finance/creditreport.htm

Unfortunately, it is no longer uncommon to be a victim of identity fraud. The best method of protecting yourself is to monitor your banking and credit card activity at least two times per week. If anything looks suspicious, contact your bank immediately.

#3        Obtain or update your will – As a financial professional, I am amazed at how many people have neglected to obtain a living will or update their existing will. Depending on the circumstances, it can be a relatively simple process and you will likely save your heirs a tremendous amount of difficulty and, very possibly, tax dollars.  Remember to update the beneficiary information on each of your insurance and investment accounts, too.

#4        Secure your documents – Whether by natural disaster or human error, our homes are at risk.  While you likely have home insurance, consider that if your home is destroyed, your critical documents may be destroyed as well.  Today’s technology enables individuals to secure their documents electronically but, if storing private information on the internet causes you concern, consider using a more traditional method such as a safe deposit box or a fire-proof safe for your home.

#5        Meet with your financial planner – Knowing exactly how to structure your personal finances can be tricky.  Do you have a comprehensive financial plan that is monitored regularly? Ask for help and, to ensure that you are working with the right professional, be certain that your advisor is:

a)      Certified in financial planning

b)     Has knowledge of the relevant tax matters

c)      Is available to you whenever you have a question, and

d)     Is committed to your best interests

David Tepp CPA, PFS, MBA is a tax and financial planning professional and the President of Tepp Accounting Services (www.teppabs.com) located in Westfield, NJ.  If you have any questions or comments, please contact dtepp@teppabs.com or 908-233-1221.