It Must Be January…

To do todayI’m not talking about resolutions. I’m talking about getting fit! Stores are full of exercise equipment for the home and enrolment in fitness clubs increases. Then the hard work starts and the enthusiasm wanes.

Getting financially fit also occurs in January. Have you decided on the amount of your TFSA and RRSP contributions or any of the other plans you might contribute to like a RESP or RDSP? But then again you might wait until just before the deadline and then have to make “in-the-moment” decisions about the amount to contribute and how to invest it.

Getting financially fit includes getting organized in case of emergency or as part of life planning. I have recently seen blogs about compiling personal financial information. The Globe & Mail’s Rob Carrick is compiling short videos on this subject. His most recent one is http://bit.ly/1sxvtLs. The legal firm of Hull and Hull has also written on this subject http://bit.ly/1yb9EDL.

So how do you get organized? Time and tools could well be your first concern. To tackle the time commitment a very wise man once told me to take the Swiss cheese approach. Start by tackling a small task then continue on with other small tasks and then before you know it the block of cheese vanishes from all those holes created as you worked away. As for tools I always opt for electronic ones as it is easier to make changes and keep updating.

Suggested top 10 “Swiss cheese” tasks to do over the next 3 months:

  1. For the next 2 months place all financial correspondence in an expandable file sorted by any method you like. This includes creating a paper copy of any digital information you receive.
    1. Before placing in the file make a note of whether the invoice is paid automatically by credit card or through your bank. Include the name of the credit card (MC, Visa etc.) and the bank (BNS chequing, RB chequing etc.).
    2. If the invoice is paid on-line at the time of receipt note that fact and note the name of the bank and the account it is normally paid through.
    3. Place copies of bank statements and credit card statements in the file when received.
    4. If statements from your investment accounts are only received quarterly don’t forget to include a copy in the file as well. Note the name of your financial advisor on the statement if it is not already listed.
  2. Store all digital financial information received in a digital folder in your e-mail and download copies of the records and store them in a file in your “Documents” folder.
  3. Compile all your important documents in one place. Storage of these documents is discussed in step 8.
    1. Purchase of your home and mortgage agreement or rental/lease agreement;
    2. Marriage certificate/co-hab agreement/separation agreement/ custody agreement etc.
    3. Will and Powers of Attorney
    4. Funeral pre-arrangement and pre-payment documents.
    5. Life Insurance Policies.
    6. Anything else you might think important.
  4. Keep a record of your on-line activity.
    1. I recently started using a password storage service as the number of accounts and passwords was getting too unmanageable. I also wanted to increase the strength of my passwords to decrease the possibility of identity theft. A paper version will also work if you devise a system to keep it up to date and stored safely.
    2. Use 2-step authentication if offered by a web-site.
  5. Scan or take a photo of each of your credit cards and loyalty cards.
  6. Ensure your computer is password protected. Also password protect your mobile devices. If you use a router in your home ensure it is also password protected.
    1. Back up you mobile devices to your personal computer; and
    2. Back up your personal computer on an external hard drive.
    3. Store the external hard drive in a safe location.
    4. Perform back-ups quarterly at a minimum.
  7. Create a summary of personal information. There are many checklists available on-line or your bank’s wealth management group can provide you with one. Record all information that is not included in the records you have compiled above. If a document exists in your expandable file (Step 1) that is referred to on the checklist just indicate “See File”.
  8. Store the information carefully.
    1. Consider a fire proof safe to store the expandable file and other important documents.
    2. If you wish to use a safety deposit box keep a copy of your will in your home and write on the front page the location of the original.
    3. Consider giving a copy of your will to your Executor and a copy of your Power of Attorney to that person so that they can ask for clarification from you.
  9. Communicate the location and contents of the information compiled to your Power of Attorney and Executor. You must trust them to perform their duties because you selected them and obtained their permission to undertake these roles.
  10. Every January update your information for any changes.

Over a period of 2-3 months this will take 6-10 hours but it will be executed 5 minutes at a time so it will not be noticeable and you will have prepared a significant amount of information your Power of Attorney or Executor will require.

The remaining information they need, will take more significant amounts of time to compile but that is for another post.

After reading this post if you are intimidated by the scope of the exercise or if you continue to procrastinate because of competing priorities we offer services to assist you with this task. E-mail leslie@executor-services.ca for more information or see www.executor-services.ca

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