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Dr. Don's 10 things to stop in 2006

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The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act gives you the right to a free copy of your credit report once each year from the three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Rotate through the firms during the year by requesting a credit report every four months. The Bankrate feature, "How to get your free credit report," provides the contact information.

Other consumer reporting agencies like ChexSystems (banking) or MIB (life insurance) that fall under the Fair Credit Act also have to provide you with a free copy of their report once each year. The Bankrate feature, "Specialty consumer reports reveal your secrets," tells you how to request these specialty consumer reports.

Shred your unneeded financial documents. Buy a shredder, preferably a cross-cut shredder, or, if your community offers this service, attend the next community shred.

Although I have found the credit monitoring service valuable this year because of the ChoicePoint incident, I don't see myself continuing that service when it's my nickel paying for it.

Stop phishing
This hasn't been much of a problem in my e-mail this year -- the spam filter must be doing its job -- but you need to be vigilant about how you share your personal information on the Internet. Phishing is an Internet scam that uses spam or pop-up messages to trick you into disclosing your bank account, credit cards, Social Security number, personal identification numbers, or PINs, or other financially sensitive information. It's a fairly insidious attempt at identity theft. When in doubt about a request for information, go to the Web site on your own and look for commentary or discussion about a phishing scam. Never click through on the links in the message. The FTC has a guide that provides some tips about protecting yourself against phishing trips.

Stop the status quo
This top 10 tip relates to Newton's first law of motion. That is, an object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless another force acts on it.

If not being able to decide what mutual fund to invest in is keeping you from contributing to a retirement account, then find a way to get past that obstacle. If you already have an investment portfolio, review your holdings and decide if you need to rebalance or reallocate the portfolio to bring it in line with your attitude toward risk and your investment goals.

Find your way around the obstacles that are keeping you from your goals. If you're spending more than you make, put together a spending plan. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, try to build some liquidity. When you can't figure out how to get around a roadblock, ask for help. Whether it's a financial planner, fitness trainer, motivational coach or trusted friend, a fresh set of eyes and ears can help you see your way past the obstacle and put you on track to meet your goals.

Stop missing out on smelling the roses
Easier said than done, I know, but there's more to life than working to pay the bills. Find a way to put joy in your life if it's missing or add to your joy if it's not. People make New Year's resolutions because they're hopeful as to what the New Year will bring. Go beyond fitness and finances to figure out what you want out of life and work toward it.

Bankrate experts' advice
Repeating your money errors of the past is a sure way to personal finance wreck and ruin.
Here, Bankrate columnists identify their picks as the worst mistakes you can make when it comes to your finances in the areas of real estate, debt, taxes, bankruptcy and personal finance, along with tips on how to avoid them next year.
Thrifty 60
1. 10 big bankruptcy blunders
2.10 missteps that will plunge you into debt
3. 10 real-estate wreckers
4.10 terrible tax mistakes
5. 10 top money errors
6. 10 miscues when dealing with debt collectors



Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: Dec. 20, 2005
More Q&A stories from Dr. Don
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10 missteps that will plunge you into debt
10 real estate debt wreckers
Thrift Sixty: Money mistakes to avoid
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