Your Annual Financial Checkup
From an early age, we are taught that one way to maintain our physical health is to schedule an annual health screening. Checking in with our doctors on a regular basis gives them (and us!) an opportunity to evaluate our general health, suggest lifestyle changes, and troubleshoot any health issues on the horizon. Likewise, finding time for an annual financial checkup for yourself can go a long way toward achieving long-term goals and identifying possible issues. The idea of diving into your personal financial information may seem overwhelming at first, but following these simple steps and checking in annually with each of the following financial areas can help you maintain your financial health:
- Credit reports. Your credit report is one of the most important financial documents to examine closely. Information in your credit report can impact your ability to rent an apartment or gain employment. It can also affect your ability to obtain, or even the rates charged for, insurance and/or loans. Obtain a free copy of your credit report on an annual basis from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – to check for fraudulent activities, correct mistakes, and assess where to make improvements. Visit annualcreditreport.com to get started. This is the only website mandated by the federal government to provide your free annual credit report.
- Personal insurance history. Two companies – LexisNexis Risk Solutions and Verisk -- maintain information about your insurance claims history, including the type and date of loss and the amount paid. You are entitled to free copies of your personal property and auto reports.
LexisNexis Risk Solutions C.L.U.E. Reports provide a seven-year history of losses associated with either personal property or automobile insurance. To order either or both of these reports, complete the request form and submit it via mail: C.L.U.E. Inc. Consumer Center, P.O. Box 105295, Atlanta, GA 30348-5295, online, or by phone at 866-312-8076.
If you believe any information in your report is inaccurate, you can file a dispute by phone at 888-497-0011 or by mail: LexisNexis Consumer Center, P.O. Box 105108, Atlanta, GA 30348.
See also: https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/fact_act_disclosure.jsp
Verisk provides an insurance loss history report service as part of the insurance underwriting process. You can request a free copy of your A-PLUS loss history report via phone at 800-627-3487. If you believe there is an error on your report or would like to obtain a copy of your report resulting from an adverse action notice by an insurance company, you can contact their Consumer Inquiry Center at 800-709-8842.
See also: https://www.verisk.com/insurance/products/order-an-a-plus-loss-history-report/
- Employment history. Potential employers, creditors, and landlords may base their decisions about you on your current or past employment and salary. Many employers use an Equifax service called Work Number to maintain this information and provide a record about you to those you have granted permission. Similar to your credit report, you are able to request a free copy of your report. Login online: https://www.theworknumber.com/Employees/index.asp or by phone at 1-866-604-6570.
If you believe your data is inaccurate or incomplete, you can file a dispute for free: https://www.theworknumber.com/Employees/employee-data-dispute/index.asp
See also: https://www.theworknumber.com/Employees/DataReport/index.asp
- Consumer report. LexisNexis Risk Solutions uses a combination of public record, publicly-available data sources, and proprietary data and information to compile consumer files on individuals. These Full File Disclosure Reports contain information such as real estate transactions, liens, judgments, bankruptcy records, professional licensure information, and address histories. The reports have been used by law enforcement, non-profits, businesses, and government agencies for many purposes, including investigating identity theft and fraud. You may obtain a free copy of your report by filling out a request form and including the requested documents.
Is your information incorrect or incomplete? File a dispute by phone at 888-497-0011 or by mail: LexisNexis Consumer Center, P.O. Box 105108, Atlanta, GA 30348.
See also: https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/index.jsp
5. You may be surprised to learn that a reporting agency called the MIB (formerly the Medical Information Bureau) maintains files on consumer-patients that contain data about medical conditions and other interests/hobbies affecting a person’s health and insurability. A free copy of your MIB record can be requested online: https://www.mib.com/disclosuretransfer/disclosureservice/formrequest or by phone at 1-866-692-6901.
Not all individuals will have an MIB Consumer File. If an individual is in good health with approved life and/or health insurance applications as standard or preferred risk, MIB codes are not typically reported.
To dispute information contained in your file, you may request a reinvestigation by contacting the MIB Disclosure Office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing at MIB Disclosure Office, 50 Braintree Hill Park, Suite 400, Braintree, MA 02184.
See also: https://www.mib.com/request_your_record.html
6. Check out your ChexSystems report. Banks and credit unions use ChexSystems reports to evaluate applications for banking services. A mistake in this report can mean the difference between being approved or denied for an account or banking services. To request a free copy of your ChexSystems report, fill out the request form and submit it by mail to: Chex Systems, Inc., Attn: Consumer Relations, 7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125 or by fax: 602-659-2197. You can also make a request via phone at 800-428-9623 or online at ChexSystems.com.
If you find your report to be inaccurate, you must submit a letter to ChexSystems and the company that reported the information explaining the mistakes and providing any supporting documentation.
See also: http://www.dobs.pa.gov/Documents/Publications/Handouts/ChexSystems.pdf
7. Verify Your Financial Advisor. Trying to find information on financial services can be confusing. Before you spend your time and money on a financial service, product, or company, we urge you to investigate before you invest. Research the people to whom you are handing over your money to make sure they are properly licensed, research the investments you are considering, and research the companies in which you will be investing. Call 1-800-PA-BANKS if you have questions.
You can access several public, free sources of non-commercial information: www.dobs.pa.gov/Documents/Publications/Brochures/InvestigateBeforeInvestv3.pdf