A 2011 Checklist for Your Financial Life

Forget about financial resolutions. Follow this checklist of money "dos" and "don'ts" in the coming year and you'll find your finances and yourself happier, healthier and more productive in the new year.

Forget about financial resolutions. Follow this checklist of money "dos" and "don'ts" in the coming year and you'll find your finances and yourself happier, healthier and more productive in the new year.Dos:

Get to your office early. You will feel in control, stay on time, and be able to see the odd extra patient from which the revenue is found money. Over the course of a year, that could amount to five figures. A rare win-win.

Where you finish often depends upon where you start.

Obtain proper coverage. The rule of thumb is that your life insurance should be about 10 times your income for the typical physician with a family. Give or take, depending upon your circumstances.

Simplify. Realize that the average doctor spends about 10% of his or her time dealing with red tape, or about five precious weeks of our year. Try delegating to your staff, freeing you for more patient care. Another tip: Update to your billing process. Continuing to use out-of-date superbills or billing software "because I have $X invested" is being penny wise and pound foolish. In July, the American Medical Association reported that 20% of claims are processed incorrectly. Don't give the insurance companies another excuse to delay payment -- it's the lifeblood of your practice.

Save early and often. Make your contribution for tax-deferred retirement accounts as early in the year as possible. The differences in earnings from early-year contribution compared to late-year contribution, multiplied by the number of years left for you to contribute in your career, can really add up. It's like a free extra year of earnings over your career.

Consolidate your financial accounts. The fewer accounts you have -- particularly if held with one company -- the easier they are to monitor and manage.

Don'ts:

Shop for anything when you are hungry. That's how we acquire those weird canned goods that accumulate in the back of the pantry. It's a waste of money and space. Likewise, don't make important financial decisions when you're "hungry" either. Take your time and do your homework. It may not be your forte (yet), but you will be well paid for your trouble by coming out further ahead in the end than you might have making quick decisions based upon anxiety over not having had an adequate grasp of the situation.

Pay attention to the day-to-day market noise. Listen to the latest stock-market analysis if you choose -- so-called financial experts often know as little or less about what's truly going on in the markets day-to-day than you or I do -- but stick to your portfolio's diversified asset allocation no matter how rough the seas. The year 2008 was about as bad as it can get, but those who stayed the course recovered more quickly.

Make excuses. Remember Ben Hogan's famous advice that translates well from the golf course; "Never complain and never explain." There is always a reason, an explanation, an excuse, but few want to hear it and it rarely helps.

Fail to act like an owner. Physicians who act as if they are just technicians or staff workers within their practices will not be doing the best for their patients or for themselves -- and others will treat you accordingly. Be proactive in the running of your practice, do more than is expected, and your patients, your organization and you will be the better for it.

Play fast and loose with your credit. Be careful about accepting offers for easy credit, particularly when a lender pre-approves a credit line you didn't ask for. That happens less than it did before the financial meltdown, but lenders (particularly unscrupulous ones) will "go where there money is," and that means targeting consumers with the best credit. And make a note in your calendar to keep on top of your credit by checking your credit history for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Good credit in this new era, if you still have it, should be husbanded carefully.