Recently, I was having a conversation with my brother-in-law. In this conversation, he told me a story about how he was helping a widow with some yard work and mending a fence one Saturday (a program that our church has to help the widows in the church community). She was recently widowed (less than two weeks) and there were multiple guys helping her with her yard and fence, but she asked for one more thing before they left. She wanted help with the finances.
Her husband had always dealt with the finances and she didn't know where any of the important documents were located. She didn't know how much was in the retirement accounts or even how to access the money in the account. She didn't have the login information for the checking and savings accounts. This woman had just lost her husband. But instead of grieving, she was worried about trying to figure out the finances.
Don't Ever Put Your Family in this Position.
It is amazing, because I have heard this happen many times to spouses. One person always handles the money and never discusses passwords, retirement accounts or even how to handle the money prior to death. This puts loved ones in a bind and can lead to worries and struggles about the finances. There are a couple steps to make sure that your loved ones are prepared in case the unexpected occurs.
Create a Financial Binder
Every month, my wife and I discuss the monthly budget, but other than those discussions, I handle the finances. I keep track of our net worth, I make sure that our money is going towards savings and I keep track of the budget. Most couples are probably in the same boat, with one spouse more interested in the finances than the other spouse. With this situation, there needs to be a way for you to communicate all things financial from the grave. Dave Ramsey calls this the Legacy Box, but I believe a binder would work just as well. I suggest including the following items in the binder:
- A Letter to Your Loved Ones
- This letter should include both personal and financial items
- Could give spouse tips in ways to handle the money
- Login and Password Information for the following:
- Financial Accounts
- Retirement and Pension Information
- Utility Companies
- Credit Card Accounts
- Mortgage Account
- Insurance Accounts
- A copy of the Will
- A will allows everybody to know your wishes
- Less fighting over who gets what
- A Copy of the Life Insurance Policy
- This way family can access the money from this policy ASAP
- Important Numbers that your Spouse can Use
- Friends that can help with the finances
- Number of a trusted financial professional that the spouse can contact in case they need help investing the money
Since the binder includes lot's of financial information, you could place this binder in a household safe. This protects the login information from thieves, but still allows access for family. The family is the biggest reason for creating this binder.
Prepare Your Spouse or Family
Last year, my school had a Facebook threat and there was a small possibility of a school shooting. After finding out this information, my wife and I had a discussion of what to do with the money in case something unfortunate did happen. It wasn't the happiest conversation, but my wife knows the steps that I would take with the money. She can take these steps, if I leave this world early without any regret, because we talked about it.
Just like my wife and I did, I suggest that everyone sits down with their spouse and some other family members to have this conversation. I know this conversation won't be easy and some people want to avoid the topic of death. No matter how much you want to avoid the topic of death, I have some news for you: We all will eventually die.
The human race has a 100% mortality rate, and you will eventually have to come to terms with this fact. Life is very fragile and it can end at anytime. It is not fun to think or talk about, but it is a necessary conversation. This life, on earth, that we are living will eventually come to an end and we are never told how much time we have left. We can only pray for a long happy life, while preparing for the worst.