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New year - new personal budget

Editor's note: The following information was provided by David Kjos, president/CEO of Bremer Bank in Alexandria.

In a tough and uncertain economic environment, it is more important than ever before to check financial statements and account balances.

Oftentimes, individuals don't pay close attention to personal budgets or even have one in place.

As a new year begins and uncertainty in the economy persists, now is a critical time to take a look at personal finances and set new goals for individual budgets.

Following is a list of items to consider reviewing annually, or at least every few years, with a banker or financial expert:

•Checking account balances.

•Savings account balances.

•Credit card balances.

•Online bill payments.

•Interest rates on money markets, CDs, mortgages and other loans.

•401K distributions.

•College savings plans.

•Charitable contributions.

•Other investments including money markets, equities, fixed income, retirement plans.

•Insurance plans (auto, life, home).

•Estate plans.

•Living wills.

While reviewing the list of documents above, it is also important to ask a banker or financial expert some critical questions, including:

•Am I comfortable with my current investment mix?

•Are my investments still appropriate with my retirement time horizon?

•Is there a better way to balance my monthly budget?

•Are there areas I should cut back on?

•What is the current balance of my loans?

While the economy and financial markets continue to be uncertain in 2009, some simple steps can help consumers protect and stabilize personal finances. Keeping track of personal budgets, reviewing statements and maintaining an open relationship with a banker or financial advisor will put consumers in the best position to weather turbulent economic conditions.