By John Bair
Let’s start with the basics: organization. We all know that personal finances can be complex, scary, and sometimes, paralyzing. What you should do, when you should do it, who to have help you—all of these are questions we face during different stages of our lives, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. One way to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success is to make sure you are organized. This way, you can step back and take a look at what you have and what you may be missing.
Evaluate Your Current Financial Situation
Begin with a self or family audit. Where are all of your important personal documents? Passports, birth certificates, bank statements, wills…are they all kept in the same place and is that space safe? Do you have a health care proxy? Copies of previous years’ tax filings? Make a mental or physical checklist of important documents and run through that checklist for every member of your household.
Organize Your Important Documents
Next, ask yourself, in what form do you keep these critical pieces of information, and is it the smartest and safest? Are you still clinging to paper? Do you have a filing cabinet overflowing with pieces of paper that you’re sure are important but couldn’t produce in a pinch? Maybe it’s time to switch to electronic files. There are several sites, apps, and tools out there that make it easy and secure for you to share and store your important documents digitally.
One personal favorite of mine is Dropbox. Dropbox allows you to store digital files in the cloud, and you can organize them into folders such as “home,” “work,” “health” and so on. The site is secure and password-protected, but you can also give shared file access to designated users, such as a spouse or life partner. Leading an organized financial life can reduce stress and encourage conversation amongst partners, spouses, and family members. These conversations can then help prepare you for future financial decisions.
Consider a Financial Advisor
It’s also important to have a dedicated financial advisor who communicates with you in the way that you prefer. Whether it be text, email, or you-refuse-to-give-it-up snail mail, trusting your advisor allows you to consolidate all of your holdings so you can have a whole picture.
One great tool for communicating electronically is DocuSign. DocuSign enables you to upload documents that require signatures and safely delivers those documents to their recipient while allowing them to e-sign. This tool makes it faster and easier to get legal or personal documents exchanged back and forth.
I encourage you to set aside some time to think about your personal economy, as well as ways in which you can protect the resources most important to you. You don’t have to start big—you can start small by consolidating what you have thus far and making sure you have safe and easy access whenever you need. If electronic organizing is not yet for you, that’s ok. The website www.pinterest.com is full of do-it-yourself home organization hacks that just require some well intentions, a trip to Ikea, and some elbow grease.