3 ways to organize your finances for the new year

Here's something to celebrate this New Year's: A new study has found that a record number of Americans are making financial resolutions for 2014. If you haven't made your list of goals yet, this is a great time to get started.  

My most important piece of advice is to make your goals realistic. Don't fall into the trap of setting great financial goals but failing to think about them again past January. Write out your goals and make it a point to track your progress throughout the year.

If one of your goals to better organize your financial life, here are three tips to help you get there:  

First, reduce account clutter. If you have multiple accounts with the same titling and the same purpose – such as multiple bank accounts, several IRAs and 401(k)s from former employers – then consider consolidating these accounts. 

Doing so will make it easier to see your overall asset allocation mix and allow you to do a better job tracking and measuring your investment performance. With fewer accounts, you’ll also be able to keep track of websites, passwords and keep your beneficiary designations up-to-date.  

Next, get rid of credit clutter. Do you really need all of those credit card accounts? Do you have multiple loans, such as student loans or credit card accounts? Make this the year you consolidate loans and pay off those small balances. Also, each credit account you don’t need should be closed. One benefit: having fewer accounts will make it easier to protect yourself from identity theft.

Finally, start tracking your spending. Make this the year you start entering all of the money you spend  -- and I mean on everything -- into a financial program such as Intuit's Quicken or TurboTax. As a financial advisor, I can tell you that my clients who do this spend their money more wisely, waste less money and are more confident in their finances. Make that a goal for you too.

  • Ray Martin

    View all articles by Ray Martin on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Ray Martin has been a practicing financial advisor since 1986, providing financial guidance and advice to individuals. He has appeared regularly as a contributor on the CBS Early Show, CBS NewsPath, as a columnist on CBS Moneywatch.com and on NBC-TV's morning newscast TODAY. He has also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and is the author of two books.