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How to Organize Your Financial Life

Part of living life to the fullest is being intentional about planning for your future. Life can sometimes become very busy, though, and it's all too easy for your personal information to become a jumble of electronic files and paperwork only you can navigate.

But what would happen if you couldn't do that?

Just as you might entrust a trusted neighbor with the keys to your home while you're on vacation, it's important to share the keys to your financial life with a trustworthy contact. Ask yourself: "What can I do today to make it easier for my loved ones to carry on if I can't be there? How much harder will it be on them if I don't provide them with a road map to follow?"

Being prepared is, in part, an act of kindness to your loved ones. Here's how to organize your financial life to prepare for a time where may need your loves ones' help:

IDENTIFY SOMEONE YOU TRUST

Start the process by identifying a person to handle your affairs if something happens to you. Many people designate their spouse or partner. Alternatively, you might consider an adult child, a sibling, other relative or close friend. It's also not uncommon for an accountant or attorney to accept this role.

THINK ABOUT YOUR VALUES

Consider your personal values underpinning your financial decisions. How have you approached spending, saving and investing throughout your life? What financial lessons have you learned that you'd like to pass on? Are there charities or causes you support, and why are they important to you? Share your answers with those closest to you to start an ongoing conversation about money and what it means to you.

GATHER CRITICAL INFORMATION

Keep all of your important personal information in a safe place where your trusted contact can access it. You could create a "grab and go" binder with key information or save everything to a secure flash drive. It's very important to store this in a secure place like a safety deposit box or locked drawer.

Here's what you should capture:

  • Key contacts
  • Important documents
  • Access to your digital footprint
  • Financial and investment accounts
  • Estate planning documents
  • Insurance policies
  • Safety deposit box (location and access)
  • Personal property
  • Recurring bills
  • Loans and bills
  • Household services
  • Pets

Take 10 minutes each month to review and update this information, paying close attention to passwords. You can use Baird's Personal Information Guide to get started, or ask your Baird Financial Advisor for the guide.

At some point in our lives, every one of us will need help. Preparing for that time can give you peace of mind. Taking time now to organize your information will be immensely helpful to those you care about most when you need their help.

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