Lots of people are wondering, what do I do know that the economy appears to be melting down?
First and foremost, don’t panic. You are not going to end up standing in line for the soup kitchen. Not if you’re reading this right now.
What you are going to do is get more aware of your family finances, learn to live within your means and generally gain awareness you didn’t have before.
Then, you’re going to look back on this “financial crisis” as the best thing that ever happened to us.
One of the most important things you can do is to establish a family freedom notebook. This is a notebook that you use to keep track of everything related to the financial well-being of your family.
At a minimum, here’s what you put in it:
1. Monthly bank statements for every bank account you have, including any custodial accounts in your kids’ names (keep 12 months worth of statements in the notebook and then scan and archive older statements).
2. Monthly brokerage account statements for every brokerage account you have, including college savings accounts, like 529s (keep 12 months worth of statements in the notebook and then scan and archive older statements).
3. Monthly retirement account statements for each of your retirement accounts (keep 12 months worth of statements in the notebook and then scan and archive older statements).
4. Monthly insurance policy statements for each of your insurance policies ((keep 12 months worth of statements in the notebook and then scan and archive older statements).
5. Copies of your insurance policies (keep these forever).
6. Documents related to any other assets owned, such as the pink slip for your car or lease papers if you are leasing your car.
7. Monthly mortgage statements (keep 12 months worth of statements in the notebook and then scan and archive older statements).
8. Monthly credit card statements (keep 12 months worth of statements in the notebook and then scan and archive older statements). Also, in this section, keep a list of all of your credit card numbers, along with their security codes and the 800# on the back of the card. This list will be a lifesaver if you lose your wallet.
9. Any other loan statements or statements evidencing liabilities you may have, such as student loans, personal loans from parents or car loans.
10. Family Profit and Loss Statement: This is a monthly updated ledger of all income that comes into your family and all expenses that go out.
11. Family Balance Sheet: Updated monthly, this will list out the current values as of month’s end for each of your accounts, including liabilities.
12. Estate Planning Section: Your whole estate plan would be too big to keep in your Family Freedom notebook, but you can keep a CD or jump drive with your estate planning documents on it and any documents related to the transfer of assets into your Living Trust. Plus, keep your health care directives and powers of attorney in this section as they will need to be accessed immediately if anything happens to you.
13. Other personal legal documents: if you own property with anyone else, have entered into any business arrangements, or have personal legal agreements, keep those in this section.
14. Pay stubs: keep a year’s worth of the part of your pay stub that shows how much you got paid, how much went to taxes and how many hours you worked. I can’t tell you how many non-breadwinner spouses have told me they don’t know how much money the breadwinner spouse makes. Bad idea. Make sure you know and have the records.
15. Social Security Statement: You know that green and white letter you get in the mail each year that says how much you’ve paid into social security and how much you can expect to get, keep it here. I can’t promise you’ll actually get this as our system may not have the money to fund it, but you can at least keep the record that shows you paid into the system.
Obviously, this notebook contains very sensitive information, so consider keeping it in a small fireproof safe in your house. Just make sure the safe is not one that can be lifted up and carried away by a thief. Make sure it’s the kind that anchors into the ground or the wall.
Please note: this is not a household notebook or a Family Emergency notebook. That’s a whole different animal and something that SHOULD be kept accessible to other family members, babysitters and household helpers.
If you have other suggestions for the Family Financial Freedom Notebook, please post them here in the comments. I would love to hear your ideas.