Do you have a personal finance command center?

If something were to happen to you today, what would happen to the people who depend on you?

It’s a slightly morbid question I realize, but one that actually runs through my head frequently since having a baby. If something were to happen to me, what would happen to my family?

Obviously, I don’t plan on going anywhere, and I don’t want to. However death is a part of life, and burying your head in the sand doesn’t make that fact go away.

Mr FC and I talk through ALL of our financials together, but he doesn’t keep an internal catalogue of all our accounts like I do. He simply doesn’t enjoy it like I do, so I’m the one who manages most of our finances. It’s just what works in our marriage.

If I were to die tomorrow would he be able to remember all of our accounts and access them easily? This era of online banking and e-statements doesn’t exactly leave a paper trail for him to follow.

Even beyond that, I wonder about if something were to happen to BOTH of us. What would happen to our daughter and the people who would come in to care for her? We don’t divulge a line list of all our financial accounts to everybody so how would they even know what to look for?

If someone depends on you, you should have a will and life insurance, without question, but you should also have more than that.

One of the things I did to assuage the thoughts in my head was to create a personal finance command center.

This is a file folder where I put all the important documents for our lives. I include copies of all my important documents, list all accounts numbers, contact information, and online login information.

Here is how it’s organized:

  • Personal Info
  • Bank Accounts
  • Debts
  • Budget and Tax Info
  • Insurance Info
  • Investment Info
  • Assets
  • Estate Plan

Followers of Dave Ramsey know that he advocates having something similar to this and he calls it a Legacy Drawer, but I didn’t feel like paying $100+ for something you can put together for free. So I did some research and created my own.

If you would like to see a detailed template that you can use to create your own personal finance command center, enter your email address here to access the free download. 

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It’s an 11-page template with detailed fields for you to fill out and reminders for accounts that you shouldn’t forget to include! You don’t have to complete it all in one sitting 😉

Other Uses

This information isn’t only useful if you die. It is also super handy to have for everyday life. I decided to call it a command center because this is something that I indeed use very much while I’m alive!

If we need a copy of any of our important documents, we know it’s in the file. If you have that annoying bank account that makes you change your password every thirty seconds and locks you out every time you try to log in, this solves the problem because your password is easily accessible.

True story… I dropped my passport at the DMV last time I renewed my driver’s license and only got it back because a family friend happened to be there too, picked it up, and the office called me (Win for small-town life).

Now, I never take original copies of those important documents anywhere if I can avoid it. I use the copies that I already have in this file.

How to store the information

I store this information in two places. One is in a physical location in our house. My husband knows where to find it, and I’ve told the people about it that I expect would care for baby FC and clean out our house if anything happened to both of us. When my daughter is old enough, I will make sure she knows where it is too.

The other location is on a jump drive that I keep in a fire-proof lock box (maybe I’m paranoid?). I’ve considered transferring it to a safety deposit box at a bank and maybe I will someday, but this works for now.

I love keeping digital copies of everything (for example I store all our photos on Shutterfly), but I don’t feel comfortable keeping a digital copy of this. Having everything in one place like this is an identity thief’s dream and the frequent data hacks we hear about should tell you that no digital storage is 100% secure.

I’ve considered creating a stripped down version and storing it in Google Docs to share with certain people, but for me, the utility of this document is in the detail so I haven’t done that.

Thoughts on the safety of this info

Some people may think it’s not safe to have all this information in one place. There is probably some validity to that concern. That is one reason I don’t keep our physical copy of this in our file cabinet because that is an easy target for burglars.

However, if you are conscientious about the physical location of this information, judicious in the choice of people that you tell about its location, and discreet in its handling otherwise, I think the risk can be minimized. At that point, its utility then outweighs the risk.

 

Have you ever tried creating a personal finance command center? Did you download the template? Let me know what you think of it in the comments!

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7 Comments

  1. I have a notebook that only me and my wife know where it’s located at in our home and it has our login info for most of our accounts. Your post reminded that I need to update that book with accounts we added during the past six months. I’ll download your template as a checklist. Thanks for this reminder FC!

    1. Glad I could be helpful! Things like this don’t need to be micromanaged, but you’re right that it is good to update them periodically as life changes.

    1. Haha a quiz isn’t a bad idea, I should do that with my husband! We are guilty of having a few old retirement accounts (with very small balances) from previous employers that we haven’t rolled over yet. Things like that are what I worry would be lost if I didn’t have it all written down.

  2. I love the idea of setting up a “command center.” We’ve only recently started getting our affairs in order with life insurance and such. Next on the list is getting a will! My mom passed away a few years ago and my dad was completely in the dark about their finances. For this reason, Mr. Picky Pincher and I know and can access anything financial at any time.

    1. It’s so important to make sure you and your spouse know about everything and can access it all. And congratulations on getting your affairs in order! Just being aware of the need and starting the process puts you ahead of SO many people.

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