Once you have your financial plan, it’s important to make sure the components of the plan, i.e. insurance documents, investment accounts, estate planning documents, etc., are organized. Sure, you may know where everything is located, but does your spouse? If someone else had to locate the components of your plan, could they? How difficult would it be?
I recommend keeping a binder…yes, I know that’s old school…with everything someone else may need to find in an emergency. I’m aware we are in the digital age, and by all means you can create a digital binder as well, but sometimes a physical binder is easier to locate and grab in a stressful time.
In this binder you should keep the following:
1.) Life Insurance policies: You could just write down all of the policies you own, but since you have the physical policies–you should have received this when you purchased them–there is no reason not to keep them in your binder. You’ve got to store them somewhere anyway.
2.) Estate Planning documents: Unlike your life insurance contracts, you may not have the physical estate planning documents. As a reminder, these documents include your will, trust, power of attorney, living will, healthcare power of attorney, etc. If you have paper copies of theses documents, or a CD/flash drive version, include them in your binder. If not, or the documents are too large, create a list of the documents you have, the attorney(s) who created them, and their contact information. I’d also include a list of the key people in your estate plan: your attorney, the executor of your will, guardians for children, financial representative, POAs, etc.
3.) An inventory of bank accounts: If you are like me, you have your banking spread out at a couple of locations. I use a local bank, for convenience. I also use an online bank, for a little better interest. Since your banking may not be with one bank, you should keep a list of your bank accounts and where they are located; be sure to include the types of account, types of ownership and the account numbers.
4.) An inventory of investment accounts: Similar t0 your banking, it is very unlikely that all of your investment accounts are with one company, especially if you are not retired. Your 401(k) may be with Vanguard, your spouse’s with Fidelity, and you may have IRAs with TD Ameritrade. In order to make locating your investment accounts easier, include a list of your accounts–account types, where they are held, and contact numbers for each. You can also include the beneficiary information for each account, if applicable. It is important to regularly conduct a beneficiary check, and creating this list will serve as your first check. Future beneficiary checks will be as simple as checking your financial binder, rather than logging into each account to check. Finally, if you have a financial advisor that helps with the management of your investments, they should be listed too.
5.) A list of important contacts and their contact information: This is simple and self-explanatory:
Financial Advisor. Attorney. Insurance Agent. Banker.
6.) Reoccurring Monthly Bills: Since you recently reviewed your budget while constructing your financial plan, gathering your monthly bills should not be an issue. Include a spreadsheet with the bill, the amount, and due date. In the event that you are unable to pay those bills, the person with your binder will be able to make sure they are paid, or at least the companies are notified of the situation.
7.) Your financial plan: It’s only fitting that if you have a physical copy of your plan, you include it in your organizer.
8.) Online Account Access Information (Optional, but highly recommended): In addition to everything listed above, you may want to consider including a list of your online usernames and passwords. Yes, I know that you are not supposed to write those down, but in an emergency, they might be needed. For example, my wife knows all of the accounts we have, and where they are held, but she never logs on to check them. If I wasn’t able to tell her the username and passwords, she’d never be able to access those accounts, which may be necessary. Keep in mind that this is not a binder that is going to be kept on your coffee table for the world to review. It should be kept in a safe location, like a safe, where it will only be accessible by a few people. Keeping it in a safe place should eliminate the fear of someone getting their hands on your personal information.
Having a financial plan offers the peace of mind of knowing that you have a plan in place to reach your goals; having everything in your financial plan organized should offer you the piece of mind that if someone needs to access this information, it can be done quickly and without added stress.
Disclaimer: Nothing on this blog should be considered advice, or recommendations. If you have questions pertaining your individual situation you should consult your financial advisor. For all of the disclaimers, please see my disclaimers page.