Step Two: Family Meeting
It’s important for couples to be on the same page about the family finances. That means getting out the necessary paperwork and disclosing the whole truth about where you stand: What do your retirement accounts look like? Are there any outstanding debts still hanging over your head? Are you staying on budget or do you need to make adjustments to either your spending habits or the amount budgeted for certain bills and expenses? Taking a hard look at your financial goals and your habits can help you stay on track, or right the ship if you’ve gone astray.
I think older children can be a part of this conversation too. For instance, is there a college-bound child who can begin researching student loan opportunities?
Step Three: De-Clutter
You know how Spring cleaning feels great because you actually know where to locate things that used to be haphazardly thrown in the all-encompassing junk drawer? The same goes for important financial documents. Where are they? After you’ve made your pile, start sorting it out, and then start shredding. Tax returns older than seven years can go (and that’s playing it super-safe), as can pay stubs and bank statements over a year old.
Next, make sure you have a designated area for important documents like wills and insurance policies. The trick here is for BOTH spouses to know how to easily find this information.
That takes us to Step Four: Insure Your Future
While you’re gathering information, take a careful look at insurance policies and see if you need to make any changes regarding coverage or beneficiaries. If you have a new family member, a new home or a new job, your insurance needs have likely changed. If you’re getting older, you may want to think about disability insurance or long-term care insurance. How about home and auto-insurance? Are you getting the best rates? Can you afford to raise your deductibles to save money on premiums?
Now we’re at Step Five: Fire at Will
Maybe you don’t have a full-fledged estate plan, but at the very least, you must have a will that clearly spells out your wishes. Fail to do this, and the state decides what happens to your assets regardless of your intentions or your family’s needs. The online legal services firm Rocket Lawyer recently conducted a survey that found that over 60% of Americans don’t have a will, with most people citing procrastination as the reason. What’s worse is that the study found that 70% of people with children younger than 18 don’t have a will, which means they have no designaIf you don’t have a will, get crackin, and if you do, make sure it’s still in line with your personal circumstances. Remember, you need the beneficiaries on your retirement plan and insurance policies to match those on your will. Otherwise, designations on those accounts trump anything you may specify in your will.
It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work!