Like most of us, my neighbors split many of their household responsibilities between the two of them – probably according to their likes and dislikes.
I see Mr. Neighbor in the yard all summer mowing and trimming and feeding the lawn. He never misses a weekend and clearly has a plan every time he steps foot in his yard.
Recently, when Mr. Neighbor took sick for a long while, I learned that he was not only meticulous with his yard, but his finances as well, and it paid off big-time for his family.
A Sentinel to His Family
It seems that Mr. Neighbor is also responsible for the household finances. He pays the bills, manages the money and hires all the contractors that come to the home. When he took ill and had to spend a good deal of time in the hospital I called over several times to see if we could offer any assistance, but the answer was always a polite, “No, thank you.” It seems that Mr. Neighbor had even planned for this possibility.
Knowing that he was solely responsible for the finances, Mr. Neighbor was concerned that if he were not around, Mrs. Neighbor might not know which bills to pay when, or even where all of the accounts were, so he made an emergency plan. Simply stated, he left a file for Mrs. Neighbor that outlined all of his tasks and when and how they got accomplished. All of the bills were listed here, including how they got paid and from what account, how money came in and where it went. It even included a list of people to call to help her out – starting with their financial advisor and ending with (you won’t be surprised) the company he wanted to take care of the lawn while he was away.
The list was quite complete, it even included instructions for updating his licensing in every state so that he could return to work quickly when he recovered. Magic? It certainly seemed that way to Mrs. Neighbor. He had thought of everything to make her life (and eventually his return) easier.
We all Need a Life Plan
During a time of family crisis, the last thing we need is to worry about the little things – and at times like this, paying the water bill feels like a little thing. But, we all know that if it doesn’t get done, the fallout can reverberate for months!
I was so inspired by my neighbor’s planning that I’ve built a system to provide my clients the same peace of mind – it’s part of our Financial & Estate Planning Organizer. It’s designed to get clients thinking, now, about their future and making sure that they are preparing and protecting their loved ones (and themselves) as much as possible.
The Organizer is great for families who split responsibilities, as my neighbors did, but it’s also perfect for families where one partner simply “knows more about the finances” than their counterpart. Singles and single parents can truly benefit from this – in time of emergency, they may need the help of someone who may not even be familiar with their household.
You’re Probably Already Halfway There
And, it’s not hard. It starts with your Estate Plan and builds out from there. If you’d like to build your own Organizer, here are the sections and information you should start with:
Important Contacts: Who would someone call in an emergency? List contacts from all facets of your life here – physicians, employer, financial, legal, taxes, even the neighbors if they can help.
Assets: List all of your accounts, $ amounts, website, user name, password and contact there – if you have one.
Liabilities: Take note of all types of loans outstanding including the mortgage, home equity loans or lines of credit, car loans, family loans, even student loans and credit cards. Include how much is still owed, and to whom. Contact information is critical here. This section is also a good place to list all of the bills you pay on a regular basis.
Insurance: Detail all types of insurance including health, life, home, auto, umbrella, even jewelry insurance. Include policy numbers, company name and contact info.
Important Item Location: Finally, let everyone know where you keep important documents and other items like: your passport, birth certificate, safe deposit box keys, social security card, etc.
Looking to Organize your financial life? Call us today, we specialize in helping families and individuals get comfortable with their financial decisions.