Are All of Your Financial Affairs in Order?

Getting all your financial affairs in order so that you can be prepared for an emergency is crucial. Do you have all your important papers in one place? And do your beneficiaries know where to find them?

Sure, somewhere in the back of your mind you probably have a list of things you should have organized, but tackling this project sooner rather than later will be beneficial for everyone—for you, your family, and everyone important to you. So where do you begin?

young family of four sitting on the couch

5 Steps for beginning to put your financial and life affairs in order.

  1. Create a Budget and Goals

    A written household budget can help determine which expenses are wants and which ones you can’t live without. Coupled with a list of personal and financial goals, a written budget can indicate where you may need to save differently, or invest in protecting your income.

  2. Collect Important Personal Records

    Think of information about you that your loved ones may need if you needed help and were unable to provide it. As a starting place, your personal records might include:

    • Full legal name

    • SSN/Passport/ID copies

    • Contact information for family, friends, and other important individuals

    • Medications list

    • Pets and veterinarian

    • Birth, marriage, and other certificates

    • Employer information

    • Lawyers, doctors and advisors’ contact information

  3. Gather Financial Records

    You probably have financial records and statements in separate files at home or in a bank. To help organize them in one place, sort financial records into categories:

    • Banking - List all bank or credit union accounts you currently have open. Indicate if you have a safety deposit box or a safe at home where you keep funds.

    • Taxes - Include taxes from the last two or three years, as well as any tax-deferred accounts, like an HSA (Health Savings Account). If you deduct child care expenses or charitable contributions, list those as well.

    • Education - Do you have children in college? Even if you’re the one in school, having a financial plan is important for when you graduate. Gather all information on grants, scholarships, and student loans.

    • Estates and Investments – Don’t forget Social Security, 401(k)s, pensions, IRAs, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and mortgages. Gather copies of your most recent statements for all your investments, and put them with a copy of your will and property deeds or titles.

    • Insurance - Standard insurance like health, auto, and home should be included, but be sure to also include protective insurance needs that cover emergencies, such as life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care insurance. Include copies of your policies for both short-term and long-term insurance.

  4. Create a Quick-Reference Financial Plan Document

    For the above personal and financial records, create a master list of all the contact details and account numbers. Keep it in a safe place at home, or at your bank, along with the statements and records. Make sure your beneficiaries know how to access it in an emergency.

  5. Evaluate Your Financial Picture

    With an organized, condensed list, you might now see you have good health care, but lack protective coverage such as disability income insurance and life insurance. If it’s not entirely clear how your financial resources can help you invest in or protect your future, share your document with an advisor. And be sure to discuss insurance needs and plans with your family, so you can get the right protection for everyone.

With all your financial affairs in order, you and your loved ones will breathe a little easier knowing where everything is, and you’ll be able to move toward your life goals with more ease.