March 16, 2020, is a day I’ll never forget, as it was on that day I began to shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic. What I find unfathomable is to think we’d be living during a time, such as this, when so many lives would be affected and our world, as we once knew it, would never be the same again.
But then again, who expects to walk across the street and be hit by a car, board a plane that crashes or go to the hospital for a simple procedure and never come home or worse, come home in an incapacitated state?
Living in a time of uncertainty makes one acknowledge his/her own mortality. And while the future can’t be predicted, nor controlled, it’s how we prepare for the unexpected curveballs life throws us that can, and will, make a difference.
For someone who is known for her endless energy and need to be in constant motion, sheltering in place was a gift, as I was forced to slow down, regroup and make time for myself, which included reorganizing my own paperwork and files.
You’re surprised, aren’t you, to hear that someone who, for a living, organizes the homes, offices and lives of others would need to organize her own paperwork, but then again, there’s nothing like a life-changing event to make you realize that no matter how organized you think you are, our files, just like our cars, need an annual maintenance check. To stay on top of the situation and keep your personal papers in order, you need to organize your paperwork and files. I suggest, at the very least, performing the following six tasks:
> Create a detailed list of all passwords and user names, including company name, account number and contact information, secret questions and URL address for every single account you use on and offline. This list, which is way more comprehensive than your average password manager, should be No.1 on everyone’s list of things to do. I suggest creating a spreadsheet, which can be updated as needed, and then downloading it to a thumb drive. This information should NOT be kept on your computer.
> If you don’t have one already, it’s time to create a list of every single account you have on auto-pay, which is in addition to the password list (above) and should include: company name, account number and contact information, payment type and account from which funds are withdrawn (credit card or bank debit), average monthly (quarterly or annual) charge and the expected date of payment.
> Taking into account the unpredictability of the financial market, there couldn’t be a better time to plan or revise your budget than now. Be judicious as you assess your income versus your expenditures. A carefully planned and conservative budget will make all the difference as you navigate the road to retirement, or, if you’re already retired, to keep you on budget.
> Review your Will, Trust, Advanced Directive, power of attorney, health care surrogate information and beneficiary forms to ensure all of the information is correct and current. Prepare and/or update your “wish list” for the distribution of tangible personal property, as well as your pre-need instructions. To avoid any disagreements after you’re gone, it’s important to keep your lawyer abreast of any changes and to document and record any and all changes.
> Create a list of all professional contacts (lawyers, accountant, financial advisor, insurance agent, etc.) and accounts(bank, financial, credit and/or debit cards), being sure to include name, company, account number if applicable, address, telephone numbers and email addresses. I also suggest listing the names of any beneficiaries, along with their contact information. If you’ve ever been an Executor of a will, you know how important this task is.
Start shredding! What’s safe to shred? Old insurance policies, check registers, credit card statements, receipts and utility bills. What’s NOT safe to shred? Tax returns, current home and auto insurance policies and declaration pages and final HUD statements.