Sunday, March 4, 2007

Investing Basics: How to profit from your record keeping

Information is one of the keys to profit. Naturally you have to know what money is coming in. But if you track where your money is going, you can more easily adjust or reduce your monthly expenditures without changing your lifestyle.

All you need are four statements to determine how you are making and spending your money:

  • Your credit card bill
  • A monthly bank statement
  • Your income tax report
  • Your investment statement from your broker or mutual fund company

Your credit card can become one of your most valuable tools in your personal financial plan. The credit card provides you with free credit on a short-term basis, if you pay the balance in full every month. The many cards in the marketplace make it appealing to make as many of your purchases as possible on plastic, to collect the various air miles, cash rebates, or other points that are available. Just as importantly, the monthly statement will provider you with most of the information you need to track your monthly spending.

The next important piece of paper is your bank statement. It will fill in the holes that the credit card statement doesn¡¯t answer. You can examine your bank statement to see how often you used an ATM or how much you spent with direct and preauthorized payments. It is a good idea to establish as many pre-authorized payments as possible including the gas bill, the phone bill, and your mortgage. You should try to pay for all your bills using your credit card, pre-authorized payments, and debit card transactions and then easily track all your expenses with the exception of some spending money.

Your Tax report will provide a summary of your taxes and credits.

Your last vital statement comes from your investment broker or mutual fund company. This statement will provide you with essential information such as how much money you have made from your investments, what and where you have invested, what your average purchase cost is, and whether you have unrealized gains or losses.

Keep all these records in one place where you can access them easily. At the end of each month you will be able to determine how much money came in and how much money went out of your bank account, and more

About the author

Daneil Reed, the editor of finance and investing articles.