Image by StartupStockPhotos
Narrated by Marie T. Russell
2020 may be behind us, but unfortunately, the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak continues to set records with devastating results. While those with milder cases may recover at home within a few days, experts say those who must be hospitalized experience an average stay of about two weeks, with some needing extra recovery time in a long-term care facility. The virus is also now the leading cause of death in the U.S. And the loss can leave family members scrambling to understand their loved ones' last wishes, locate important documents, and settle their affairs.
Whether it's COVID-19 or a car accident, we all run the risk of having to rely on someone else to manage our households or access our important estate documents. This year, resolve to be prepared — by creating a financial "scrapbook" for your loved ones.
What is a Financial Scrapbook?
A financial scrapbook is a "how-to" guide and information source that enables a family member or friend to assist you in an emergency or at the end of your life. A financial scrapbook is not a will or an estate document, although it could include that information. Rather, it's a resource that can be used to operate your household, manage children and pets, pause or close accounts, and notify friends and extended family members about your situation.
Your scrapbook could include not only important documents and account numbers, but also your personal directions. Some suggestions include:
- What bills must be paid each month (such as mortgage and homeowner association payments, utilities, cable, telephone and internet, credit cards, etc.) with account numbers and company contact information
- Ongoing ancillary household services, with phone numbers and contact names (for grocery delivery, housecleaning, pest control, yard care, etc.)
- Information about your children's needs, including a list and contact information for schools, extracurricular activities, pediatricians and medical specialists, and an outline of their daily routines
- Pet care directions and veterinary information
- A copy of your financial plan, with a list of savings and investment accounts, along with statements for each account
- Important documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, car titles, property deeds, wills, passports, medical directives, burial plots, etc.
- Insurance documents with account information (auto, life, health, umbrella, etc.)
- Tax returns for the past three to five years
- Login information for all online accounts, including social media
- Instructions on whom to contact and how in the event of your death (this should include family members, friends, attorneys, insurance agents, funeral homes, government agencies like the Social Security Administration – even your holiday card list!)
As you create your financial scrapbook, make notes as to how often its contents need to be updated, and schedule time on your calendar for regular reviews of your information. You don't want to go to the trouble of getting organized, only to have the information be dated when you need it.
Make It Personal
How you organize your financial scrapbook is entirely up to you, whether it's by topic, such as home, auto, children and pets, or according to those aspects of your life and household that need attention on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
If you have designated a specific friend or family member to access your financial scrapbook, you can also personalize it with pictures or a legacy letter in the event of your death. You could even invite your friend or family member to join you in creating your scrapbook, or work with an elderly parent to create theirs. In the process, you may learn more your family history!
Protect Your Information
Once you've determined what to include in your financial scrapbook, you will also need to decide how to protect it. If you choose to create a physical notebook or place your financial scrapbook on a flash drive, for example, consider how best to protect it from fire or water damage, theft or unwanted access. One option is to install a locking, fire-resistant safe that can be bolted to the floor in a hidden area of your home. While not fool-proof, having a safe enables you to access what you need quickly.
You may be tempted to store your financial scrapbook in a safe deposit box at your bank; however, finding one that offers this service may be difficult since safe deposit boxes aren't as popular as they used to be. Other drawbacks include having to pay storage fees and a potential lack of accessibility. Since the pandemic started, some banks have closed branches temporarily, leaving customers without a way to retrieve their important items.
For those comfortable with technology, an online storage vault may be a preferred option. Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are among the many technology companies that offer secure storage. These services enable you or a loved one with a digital key, such as a pin or "trusted contact" status, to access your files anytime. As an added layer of security, you can password-protect, or encrypt your files to keep hackers from accessing your information.
When COVID-19 started to spread in the U.S., some Americans decided to become "preppers," accumulating food, toilet paper and other supplies as a hedge against lockdowns and store closures. Unfortunately, fewer people used the situation to imagine being quarantined in a health care facility, unable to communicate directly with loved ones.
Creating a financial scrapbook and briefing key family members or friends on its contents now, can bring you peace of mind in any situation.
Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
Book by this Author
The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Financial Well-Being
by Wayne B. Titus III, CPA/PFS, AIFA
As an entrepreneur, you have the passion and persistence to turn your visions into reality. But that doesn’t mean you have the financial expertise to grow and scale a company or create long-term wealth for your family. To ensure a thriving future, you need a trustworthy adviser with a clear process. In The Entrepreneur's Guide to Financial Well-Being, Wayne Titus draws on his personal experiences and professional background to walk you through finding and building a dependable, communicative relationship with an adviser who has a holistic viewpoint. He also shows you how to partner with someone who will understand the savings strategies of top entrepreneurs and ensure that all aspects of your portfolio—including investing, wealth transfer, enhancement, protection, and charitable gifting—receive proper attention. Your business is personal. With the right person to watch your financial back, you’ll have the freedom to focus on what really matters to you: your family, goals, and company.
About the Author
Wayne B. Titus III, CPA/PFS, AIFA founded AMDG Financial and AMDG Business Advisory Services in 2002 based on his 15 years' experience at two large accounting firms working with Fortune 50 clients. He dove into entrepreneurship to make a bigger impact on people's lives. As a fee-only fiduciary adviser, his loyalty is to his clients: he places their interests ahead of his own or his firm's. With assets of more than $200 million, AMDG Financial integrates tax, financial and investment strategies to help clients make financial and life transitions successful on purpose. The company's credo is, "From financial wisdom, better stewardship." His latest book is The Entrepreneur's Guide to Financial Well-Being (Lioncrest Publishing, March 2019). To learn more, visit amdgservices.com