There are many things we should all check periodically, but this article will focus on the three biggies you should definitely check on an annual basis.
1. Check your credit report.
In a world where data breaches and credit fraud are all too common, you need to keep on top of your personal and financial information. One major aspect of that is your credit report, which can help determine things like your mortgage rate, your car loan APR, and your credit card approvals. It’s very important to do an annual credit report check. You can dispute any errors, detect possible credit card fraud or ID theft, and find incomplete or outdated information. To make this even easier, it’s free!
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three major consumer credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Since February-April is when most Americans file their taxes, it’s also a good time to check your credit. The official source for your three free credit reports is Annual Credit Report—don’t be fooled by other sites.
Keep in mind that while your credit report is free, your credit score will probably not be. Your credit report is a detailed summary of the information related to your credit activity. Your credit score is a number, typically between 300 and 850, that rates your credit risk. Creditors use this number to determine whether to give you credit, decide the terms they offer, or the interest rate you pay.
On Annual Credit Report, after you view each credit bureau’s report, you have the option to see and keep track of both your credit report and score. If you choose to do so, then you would pay a fee to join that specific credit bureau’s services. Check with your credit card company before paying for this service, as many now offer free credit scores.
2. Check your Social Security benefits.
If you have ever worked and paid taxes in the U.S. and you have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will be entitled to Social Security at some point in your retirement. This is why it’s so important to do an annual check of your Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration no longer mails paper Social Security statements to most people under age 60. No matter what your age, creating a my Social Security account allows you to review and track your Social Security benefits. You’ll have access to a personalized estimate of how much you will receive from Social Security if you retire or become disabled, and how much your family members might be eligible for if you die.
To create an account online, you must: 1) be 18+ years old, 2) have a SSN, 3) have a valid mailing address, and 4) have an email address. Print out the infographic here. Create one for each adult in your household; even if you have only worked part-time or took a few years off, you will still be entitled to Social Security.
Once you’ve got your account set up, you can use the Retirement Estimator to calculate your Social Security benefits based on your actual income history. You can view different scenarios with a range of income and retirement ages, so you can plan for your retirement with more concrete numbers. You can even apply for retirement online once you’re ready!
If you suspect that someone is using your SSN, this is a crime and you should get help immediately.
3. Review your social media privacy settings.
Social media is here to stay, and if you are on it in any capacity, you should definitely do an annual review of your privacy settings. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the main ones, but as the next generation grows up, apps like Snapchat and TikTok are becoming huge as well.
Here are the how-to’s on reviewing and adjusting your privacy settings for:
Social media is like a billboard of personal information about where we live, what we do, who are family and friends are, what we buy—so much data that the public can view and find with just a few clicks. Make sure you are in control of who sees your information by regularly checking your app’s privacy settings.
Once you do these checks, add it to your calendar as an annual To-Do item!