It always starts the same way. A New Year approaches and you have the best intentions for keeping your financial life organized. You file your receipts and statements (personally, I like old school filing cabinets and file folders rather than using a scanner), and for the first few months, you are dedicated to the task. It feels good to get all the paper off your kitchen counter or desk and into a place where it is easily located. But then life takes over, and before you know it, your financial life is scattered all over the place like a tiny tornado swept through the house.
You may find a discarded tax bill with a coffee stain on it, or an old Visa statement crumpled behind the fridge, barely legible. One year, I had no idea where I put my tax return. It turns out it was in my closet behind a pile of empty shoe boxes.
It happens to the best of us.
Well, multiply this by a lifetime, and you can just imagine what you lose or misplace without even realizing it. And I’ll tell you this, some of those items could wind up being more important than simple credit card bills or receipts. What about old life insurance policies you took out when the kids were little? Maybe you’ve moved since then… did they move with you? You may have a vague recollection of signing something at the kitchen table decades ago, but where is it now?
We see this type of problem all the time. Recently, a very dear client of ours, Jane, told us her mother passed away, and she came to see us to get some help with the death claim process. What we didn’t expect was the shopping bag full of envelopes she emptied out on our conference table.
“I have no idea what’s here,” Jane said, frustrated. “My mother didn’t keep any records, and never told me where anything was. Now, I’m left with this pile of paper and no idea where to begin.”
As we helped her sort through everything, it became clear how much easier of a process this would have been if her mother had simply kept a list of her accounts somewhere for Jane. Imagine the time and frustration that would have been saved, rather than sifting for hours through a seemingly endless pile. As it turned out, her mother had a life insurance policy she had taken out after her daughter was born. All we had was a stub from a premium payment, but with a few phone calls, we discovered it was an active policy. Jane never knew her mother had insurance, and ended up using the proceeds for much needed help with college tuition for her two boys.
Imagine if that policy was never found? Those proceeds could have ended up in that unclaimed asset pile we are always hearing about in commercials. And what a shame that would have been.
Do yourself, and your children, a favor by gathering all of your assets and listing them in one place that’s easy to find. Give a copy to your kids. Make sure you always know where it is. It only takes a few minutes to compile, but minutes that will save hours of time later on. Don’t forget to think back on old life insurance policies you may have taken out (like that one you got through Knights of Columbus thirty years ago?).
To make things even easier for you, we’ve created an Organizer Kit and Checklist for you to download. This handy booklet does half the work for you, and could jog your memory about past accounts you most likely forgot about. And you know they are out there.
Remember Jane’s mom and the seemingly endless pile pf paper she left behind? Don’t be Jane’s mom. Get your accounts organized today!