Financial Slimming

Jonathan Clements

I THINK SERIES I savings bonds are a great place to stash money you’ll need to spend in five or six years, and yet I’ve resisted buying. I’ve seen credit cards that offer more cash back than the cards I currently carry, but I haven’t taken the bait. The reason: My goal is to have fewer financial accounts, not more, even if it means fewer dollars in my pocket.

As I discussed in an article earlier this year, I’ve unloaded the jumble of investments in my three Roth accounts—which I plan to bequeath to my kids—and consolidated everything in a single fund, Vanguard Total World Stock Index Fund. That’s had an immediate payoff: Amid this year’s market turmoil, I haven’t bothered checking the performance or even looking at the account values.

Since then, I’ve closed a checking account and a credit card, leaving me with three credit cards and two checking accounts—one personal, one business. I’ll likely ditch one of the three credit cards, leaving me with two. I’ll use one for everyday spending and keep the other as a backup, in case I lose my primary card or it gets hacked.

Next on my to-do list: cutting back the rewards programs that I use. Thanks to decades of business travel, I’m signed up for four frequent-flier programs and three hotel programs, plus I collect Amtrak rewards points. My goal is to use the points I’ve accumulated in most of these accounts and thereafter focus my spending on one hotel and one airline, in part so I don’t have to worry about keeping the other accounts alive by occasionally earning points.

The fact is, the more accounts we have and the more investments we own, the more precious time we have to lavish on them, and I can think of so many better ways to spend my time. Similar to donating or throwing away old possessions, I find it liberating to relinquish these various accounts, and I suspect my executor will also be grateful—though I’m hoping to delay that moment of gratitude for as long as possible.

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