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How to Save and Store Critical Financial Information For Your Family

What would happen if you didn’t wake up tomorrow? What if you never made it home tonight? Or what if you had a temporary disability that prevented you from fulfilling your financial responsibilities?

I’ve written about this before, but a story from my husband’s work inspired me to write about it again. One of the secretaries in his department has a brother who went into a coma. That’s frightening enough for any family, but it gets worse. He was the one with the power of attorney and information to execute the trust which pays for her mother’s nursing home. Because the bills went unpaid, the home tried to evict her elderly mother.

This situation brings home the necessity of getting your financial information and obligations, in order (and of getting a power of attorney yourself if you’ve got such an important responsibility). But just being told that you should write down all this information may leave you asking where to begin. That’s why I created the [download#10#nohits], which has already been downloaded by over 1200 people.

The Financial Information Your Loved Ones Need

What’s in the [download#10#nohits]?

I’ve created it with the possibility of encompassing your entire financial life. I used a Word document format to make it easy for you to take out chunks of what you won’t need and to add more entries if you have more information to record in one area. The worksheet has slots for company names, websites, types of accounts, account numbers, login/pass, phone numbers, and beneficiary information (if applicable).

Here are the areas the [download#10#nohits] covers:

  • Banking: Savings accounts, checking accounts, CDs, money market accounts. For some couples, this may be straightforward information, but in an emergency it’s still handy to have everything in one place.
  • Expected Income: This section asks you to consider what income you’re expecting from where. If you’re getting direct deposit from 1 job every other week, then you can probably just note that down. But if money needs to be collected from PayPal or a check needs to be cashed, write down instructions for where to find your other records, where to pick up the check, etc.
  • Investing Accounts: Where are your investments? There’s space for information about your 401(k), Roth IRA, other IRA, college savings,
  • Debts: Even if you’re no longer around to have a credit score, not paying joint account debts on time can damage your spouse’s credit history and credit score. Sections for credit cards, student loans, mortgages/rents, and car payments. Includes space for interest rate, monthly payment, and estimated payoff date.
  • Insurance Companies and Payments: Whether you’re dead or disabled, this is critical information for you or your beneficiaries. Home/renter’s insurance, car insurance, health insurance (FSA & HSA too), life insurance, and disability insurance. Includes space for physical location of policies, agent’s name, time until coverage begins, beneficiaries, payment schedule, and primary care physician contact info (as applicable).
  • Monthly Expenses: If you’re the financial mover and shaker in your family, you need to document your household’s monthly expenses and how to pay them. If you’re not, you need the other person to document them for you. Cable/phone, cell, heat, electricity, water.
  • Wills, etc: This area prompts you for information about the location of wills, safety deposit boxes, etc.

How Can I Safely Store My Financial Information?

You’ve filled out the [download#10#nohits]. Congrats! You’ve done something good for the people you care about. Now you’ve got one document in one place which has all of your financial information, passwords, etc. Eep! That’s a tasty treat for a hacker or identity thief.

Fortunately, there is trustworthy, free encryption software out there. One of the programs I’ve heard recommended most highly is TrueCrypt, which allows you to create encrypted drives on your computer and USB drives. Be sure to share the decryption password with the right person and/or keep a copy in a fire safe or safety deposit box.

Where Can I Safely Store My Encrypted Financial Information?

  1. Your Computer: Your computer is the fastest, simplest place to store your encrypted financial information. Make sure not to only store it under your own user account unless the other party knows your password.
  2. A USB Drive: USB drives are a great way to store small chunks of information. You shouldn’t need more than 2GB (you can use much less, in fact, but it’s getting harder to find USBs with less than 1GB). If you’re feeling in the mood for double backups, put one in a safe and the other in a safety deposit box. Or leave it with a relative.
  3. Online: Email a copy of the encrypted files to yourself and anyone else who should have them. Use a searchable title like “If I Die.” Consider free storage space with Dropbox or Mozy. Both offer a free 2GB. Mozy will do a free backup for you, should you update the file, and Dropbox can be set up on multiple computers and will synch if changed.

Who Should Fill Out a Financial Life Worksheet?

Who should put their finances in order? Everyone who’s not a hermit.

The information is critical when you share your life with someone who will need to continue living after you’re gone. It’s also important for singles. If it’s not your spouse straightening out your finances, it could be your parent or your child or your sibling.

When’s the best time? Any time. Things will change, but they always do–there’s never a more perfect time to fill out the worksheet than now. Writing this post inspired me to update mine.

Other Financial Life Tools

Earlier this year, I hosted a guest post on the One Stop Financial Dashboard Spreadsheet. It’s simpler than the [download#10#nohits] and better suited to everyday life and sharing accounts with someone.

If you’re trying to store all your passwords in an encrypted place that isn’t the worksheet, try KeePass.

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Neal @ August 31, 2009 at 8:46 am

This is critical for everyone to do.

Thanks for putting this together. I hope everyone takes advantage of it.
.-= Neal @´s last blog ..Just Do It, Don’t Wait, And Start Today =-.

JoeTaxpayer August 31, 2009 at 10:19 am

A great idea, and something I bet few people do.
The one thing I’d add is the web sites where I am a regular. It would be nice to get Jane or a friend to sign in and tell my fellow posters that I’m gone. We’ve lost a few people over the years at a Mac forum I frequent, and it was nice to express our sadness to the family of those who passed.

Great to find my first “good week’s reading post” on a Monday morning.
.-= JoeTaxpayer´s last blog ..Fun With Statistics =-.

jim August 31, 2009 at 12:39 pm

It’s always good to have a plan like this in the event you’re indisposed, this is a good post to remind people of how important that is. Even if you’re just unreachable (say on a camping trip or something), and not deceased.

Also, going through this process gives you a good idea of what you have, where things are, etc.
.-= jim´s last blog ..There Is Always A Deal =-.

Emily @ Under$1000PerMonth August 31, 2009 at 5:29 pm

I’m ashamed to say, I really needed this post. I haven’t done ANY of this. I’m doing all of this RIGHT NOW.
.-= Emily @ Under$1000PerMonth´s last blog ..Health Standards =-.

cybele August 31, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Another resource for getting the whole picture put together is
recommended to me by a friend who’s using it now…and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t done it, nor the worksheets you recommend…I guess I should…and I will!

IndianaTeacher August 31, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I already have something like this, but it needs updating – and your worksheets are much better and more detailed. Thanks!! I will re-tweet.

Paul @ FiscalGeek August 31, 2009 at 8:37 pm

This is awesome MrsMicah a very comprehensive report probably better than the myriad of spreadsheets I utilize, something to add to my to-do list right after updating my will again.
.-= Paul @ FiscalGeek´s last blog ..The FiscalGeek Cell Phone Trade In Program: Free Cell Phones for Life =-.

Ghost writer August 31, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Actually, even us hermits should fill in a financial life worksheet.
.-= Ghost writer´s last blog ..The Frugal Book Promoter: Review =-.

Michael September 1, 2009 at 11:47 pm

First of all, thank you for the information and I am sure Micah’s colleague’s family could have used it. But, they sound kind of incompetent. Probably every state has a way to deal with POA holders who are incapacitated but not dead. The family could have very easily gotten the court to fix this with even a mediocre lawyer.

MrsMicah's Mom September 2, 2009 at 3:10 am

I like the idea of using a USB drive to store the information. It feels as if one has more control over the safety of the information, whether that’s the case or not.

Allison February 10, 2010 at 2:22 pm

This is super wonderful, and I discovered this post a day after I had a related conversation about accounts and bills if something happened to me with my mom. THANK YOU for putting this all together!

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