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Dr. Don's 10 things to stop in 2006

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If you plan on being in your house for a while and are currently in an adjustable-rate mortgage, interest-only mortgage or have a HELOC outstanding, think through the costs of refinancing versus continuing to take on the interest rate risk with variable rate debt.

The targeted Federal Funds rate data was accessed using The Wall Street Journal online.
The other data points were found using Federal Reserve Statistical Release H.15

Stop counting on Social Security
This one's not for current retirees or for people near retirement. It's for people who are early on in their working careers or mid-career. It's not meant to be alarmist, but employers and the federal government are providing incentives for you to save for retirement for a reason. If your employer matches all or part of your contributions to a retirement plan, you should strive to contribute up to the limit of that match. Check out the new Roth 401(k) available in 2006. Start building a retirement war chest -- you're going to need it.

Stop leaving checks in your mailbox
Every time I see the little red flag up on a mailbox I think of it as an invitation for someone other than the mail carrier to pick up the mail. The U.S. Postal Service doesn't have a mailbox on every street corner any more, so it may be a bit of an inconvenience to take the extra step in mailing your letters. But between identity theft issues and check washing schemes, you really don't want to take the risk.

With first class postage going to 39 cents effective Jan. 8, you may decide that 2006 is your year to join the next century and pay bills over the Internet using your financial institution's bill-paying service.

Regardless of how you decide to change your habits you should stop leaving checks in your mailbox.

Stop identity theft
The good doctor had a bad year last year when it came to identity theft. I got the letter from ChoicePoint telling me that my file was one of many stolen in that debacle. To their credit, I at least got a letter notifying me of the problem and a free year of credit monitoring. Meanwhile, I still don't know if my file was appropriated in the identity theft scandals involving DSW or Bank of America.

Next: Stop missing out on smelling the roses.
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