This past week over at U.S. News – Money, there was a post by Philip Moeller: “6 Key Steps in Retirement Planning.” Each one of Moeller’s steps constitutes great advice, but we want to concentrate on one in particular: “Keep solid records.”

Keeping records is not only important for your retirement planning, but for your finances in general. Do you know where all your important financial documents are? Insurance policies, trust documents, house deed, car title, etc? It’s unfortunate that many people do not keep these records in order, and many may not even know if they have copies available to them.

Getting everything in order should be the first step for anyone trying to get their finances on track (as we discussed in our very first blog post!). But keeping solid records must go beyond just keeping everything in order; it also must include who else knows your financial details.

It may not seem important to you now, especially if you are younger, but if something were to happen and you were not capable of handling your finances (disability or death), would your spouse or children be able to step in and take over?

Of course the process would be difficult, often for emotional reasons, for your spouse or children (or whoever your beneficiary is) to step in with your finances. But you have the ability to make the situation much easier on them.

Here are some of our thoughts on how you can do so:

  • Keep your spouse/beneficiary up to date on your records – This is especially important if the person is not actively involved with your finances. Make sure your beneficiary know where you keep all of your important documents, and if you make any changes to that location, update them on the change.
  • Make sure your beneficiaries know who they are – This becomes more of an issue if you don’t have a spouse or child to fill this role. Maybe you select a sibling or niece or nephew. If your relationship with your chosen beneficiary is not as obvious as a spouse or child, you may want to have a talk with them to ensure that know they have been chosen to be your beneficiary.
  • Make sure to include records for online accounts – This has become a real problem today with the popularity of online accounts and paperless statements. If you do all of your financials online, please be sure to let your beneficiary know your login information for those sites, including any email accounts you may keep important information. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that your beneficiary will be able to find that information.
  • Be open about your finances with your spouse and children – We know many people hesitate with this, and that such openness is not an option for some families. But if you are open with the truth about your finances with your family, they will have a much easier time of it if they ever have to deal with taking over for you.

Having to deal with your disability or death will be difficult enough for your family without adding the additional pressure or having to clean up your financials and put everything in order. Please try and make that process easier by ensuring everything is organized now.


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.