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Fix your finances

Put your savings on autopilot – There is less to think about when you transfer cash automatically to savings and investing accounts.
• Internet access.
• A bank account for receiving your paycheck.
• A savings account or money market fund, a brokerage or mutual fund account, and routing numbers.
• Sign in to your bank account, and click on “transfers.”
• Set up a recurring transfer to a savings account or money fund for your emergency cash.
• Set up another to your brokerage or mutual fund account to build your investments.
Total time: three minutes.

Set up credit card payment alerts
Those $39 late fees add up. In 2009, banks collected more than $19 billion from procrastinating cardholders.
• Internet access.
• A user ID and password.
• At the American Express website, for example, log in, and then choose “See Account Management Options.”
• Click on “Update Account Alerts,” and check “Payment Reminder.” The reminder can be from one to 10 days before the due date. (The process is similar at other card websites.)
Total time: seven minutes, including registering the accounts.

Stop bouncing checks and paying nuisance fees
Charges can be as high as $38 for each time you overdraw your account. Banks raked in $38 billion from such fees in 2009.
• Internet access.
• Social Security number.
• Bank account number.
• Other personal information.
• Go to your bank’s website and select “overdraft protection.
• Click to link to a savings or money market account. That prevents you from bouncing a check and costs less.
Most banks also let you sign up for an alert that warns you when your balance approaches a specified level.
If you need to open the account you’re linking to, a bank representative may call later.

Total time: 11 minutes to sign up for both the alert and the linked account.

Get your credit scores
Good scores and a good credit history can get you a great loan rate. A bad record could keep you from getting one at all.
• Internet access.
• Social Security number.
• Date of birth.
• Address.
• Go to AnnualCreditReport.com, select your state, click on “Request Report” and provide the information requested.
• You’ll be guided to each of the three major credit bureaus’ sites to answer a few more questions.
Each bureau gives you the option to get a credit score (for $7.95) with each report (free every 12 months).
Total time: 13 minutes.

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