GO Week, or Get Organized week started on Sunday, Oct 3. GO Week was first established in 1991 and is an entire week devoted to organizing, decluttering, and getting life in order. Everything from organizing yourself, your family, your kitchen pantry, closets, garage AND your personal finances.
While I’d love to help you organize your garage, I’m really not all that good at garages! So, since money is my business, I thought we might get some ideas flowing on what it means to organize our financial “garage” instead!
Most of the ideas below are ones that we have covered in various ways before, but not all at once. I also expect none of these ideas will be all that new, and therefore will mostly serve as reminders for things we know we should be doing already. Let’s separate these into 3 categories: Information handling, Money Management, Caring for loved ones.
Backing up your computer files. All important digital pictures, financial records, and other files should be backed up to a USB backup drive or the “Cloud” via a service. If you back up on a USB drive, be sure to store the portable drive off-site. Don’t store it in the same room or home that the computer is in. That defeats the purpose if you have a flood or fire.
Organizing your physical records. For any important physical records (e.g. Home Deed) you want to keep off-site in a safe deposit box or similar. Also be sure to destroy (shred) any old tax records, receipts, canceled checks, etc. No need to keep anything tax-related for more than 7 years.
Preparing for tax season. October is a great time to start organizing files for your tax preparer. Vehicle tax records, charitable records, etc. can all be organized this time of year just 3 months before you need to get serious about it.
Off-site information management. Per above, important digital or physical records need to be stored outside your home or office in case there is a disaster or near disaster.
Creating a household budget. Retired or working, you will never truly understand your spending or saving habits (that will help you make decisions) unless you have and actively use a household budget.
Tracking your expenses. The household budget helps you allocate income. Tracking expenses lets you know you are tracking your budget (or not).
Organizing your bill payment system. Either put all your incoming bills in one physical place in your home (or pay them right away) OR just put them all on auto-pay. No one wants to get that letter in the mail informing us that we are late on paying a bill because we have misplaced it.
Separating bank accounts. A crude way to separate discretionary monies from bill-paying monies is by separating your income into more than one bank account. Coupled with a budget, separating these can keep our hands off of the mortgage payment!
Caring for loved ones
Keep important information together. If you suddenly pass, do your loved ones know who your CPA is? Financial Advisor (hopefully that’s me)? What banks or financial institutions have your investments? Are the beneficiaries up to date on your accounts? Passwords to important websites such that they can access funds quickly? Thinking this through and documenting is definitely an act of love for those who you care about.
Be sure to keep your last wishes up to date. Do you have a Living Will and/or Trust set up? Is it up to date for the state you live in? Having this in order not only ensures your wishes are completed but also can make it much easier and faster for your loved ones.
Sharing information with your heirs. Once you have the Living Will and Trust set up, AND all that helpful information on where all your investments are, be sure to share it with your adult heirs. That way there are no surprises and much less hassle for them when the inevitable happens.
While there are more items that I could list, this is a great start to getting financially organized. I hope you have a great GO Week!!