Eliminate Financial Clutter Can Improve Money Matters

Did you know more than half of adults in the United States don't know what's in their wallets?

According to a recent survey conducted by OmniTel for credit card provider Capital One, 54 percent of adults don't know the interest rate on the credit card they use most often. This lack of awareness impacts more than our finances, however. If you haven't taken financial stock and cleaned out your wallet lately, your body may be paying the price.

Each year, 30 million Americans visit chiropractors for a wide range of conditions including back pain, according to the International Chiropractors Association (ICA). And according to Dr. Coralee Van Egmond, director of professional development at the ICA, a significant source of that back pain could be an oversized wallet.

"Most people don't realize it, but the habit of sitting on a thick wallet can actually cause serious back problems," said Van Egmond. "The wallet can act literally as a wedge under the person's hip and as a result, the joints of the spine and other supporting structures of the back, shoulders and neck can significantly misalign."

Carrying an overloaded wallet in a shoulder bag can also create physical problems, mainly in the neck area. According to the ICA, the weight of a purse or bag with a shoulder strap can pull on the neck and disturb the nerves that supply the shoulder, arms and hands.

To keep your body and finances in tip-top shape, follow these suggestions for lightening your load:

Take Your Wallet's Inventory. Set aside half an hour to remove all the items from your wallet and really take stock of what you carry. Ask yourself questions like, "When was the last time I used this? Does this credit card fit my needs? Do I need these receipts with me every day?" Divide items into "everyday necessities" and "OK to file" piles. Draft a list of questions to ask yourself on a monthly basis.

Use It or Lose It. Take the "OK to file" pile and transfer receipts and records from your wallet or bag to a filing system that works for you. Use cabinets, boxes, computer programs - the storage options are limitless. What's important is to select a system that's easy to maintain. Shred or destroy records you don't need. And remember, if you plan to claim deductions on your taxes, save receipts for six to 10 years after filing in case of an IRS audit.

Get Educated. After taking inventory of your wallet, review your list and consult financial resources to help answer remaining questions such as "Am I getting the lowest interest rate possible on my credit card? Does my card provide me with rewards? Does carrying multiple cards help or hurt my credit?" Nonprofit organizations like myvesta.org, formerly the Debt Counselors of America, provide free educational information online. Capital One offers free brochures via its Web site (www.capitalone.com), or by calling 1-877-213-7477 toll free.

Let the Web Carry the Weight. Transfer credit card management and bill paying to the Web. If you're tight on storage space, online banking and e-wallet features can help minimize paper clutter. Contrary to popular belief, your personal information may be more vulnerable on paper than online. According to the Association for Payment Clearing Services, only one percent of all credit card losses incurred last year were caused by Internet-related fraud.

Shop Online. Purchasing goods online streamlines not only the shopping process, but also record keeping. Peter Tippett, vice chairman and chief technologist for Internet security company TruSecure, notes the Web offers vast storage room and eliminates the "real world" problem of misplacing or losing documents. He adds "electronic receipts from Internet purchases can be easily transferred into e-wallets for safe and organized keeping." For more tips about secure online shopping, consult the "CyberBuying 101" brochure on www.capitalone.com.

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