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How to get organized?
Old 02-20-2017, 05:10 PM   #1
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How to get organized?

I FIRED a little less than a year ago at 56. Loving it. No regrets at all - life is great!
Here is a question: how did/do you folks get your finances/insurance/etc organized so that when the unthinkable happens, those left behind know what to do next?
I know, many of you have it all sorted, some have spouses or SOs who are fully plugged into everything, etc, etc. so this is not a big issue. I'm very jealous, BUT: for me, it is. My DW, perfect as she may be in every other way , has never been much interested in anything related to investing, paying bills, etc. and while I have not given up completely, I'm not holding my breath that this will ever change. So I need a plan.
For a number of reasons, our assets ARE in fact fairly complicated (not rocket science, but a significant number of accounts spread across many types of investments, and to make it worse, across a couple of countries).
So, my goal has been, and still is to significantly streamline and simplify everything but that is still a work in progress.
In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out whether there are any useful tools out there to help me get everything organized into a single document/folder/notebook so that at least an overview is all in one place. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to approach this? I'd appreciate any input!

Here is what I'm currently looking at:

1. Kiplinger's Family Organizer - a CD - based software tool
2. Get it Together (by Melanie Cullen, NOLO pub) - a workbook that includes
downloadable forms
3. Learn Excel and craft my own giant spreadsheet

Anyone familiar with any of those options? What are the +/- you found?
Just a reality check: total assets are mid 7 figures, so, that's great, but it's not some insanely large portfolio - just a bit more complicated than it should be
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Old 02-20-2017, 05:31 PM   #2
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That's a great question but I don't have an answer, being in a similar position! My plan was to find the time to put everything in a document - I've just been too lazy. Plan B is to live for ever.
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Old 02-20-2017, 05:52 PM   #3
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Personally I prefer a spreadsheet so I can customize it to do exactly what I want. Doing it without the black box of another program also helps me understand what I've got and how to do things like estimate taxes, though I have made a few mistakes. Updating data automatically is not important to me. I'm not familiar with the other two options you listed so I can't help there. Maybe if you are just trying to keep track of investments and not doing anything special with the data one of them will work better for you.
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Old 02-20-2017, 05:53 PM   #4
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Here is a useful 2013 Boglehead thread on assembling a "Deathbook," which I've got bookmarked: https://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=119346. That forum's wiki on Estate planning links to a couple more threads that may be of use.
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Old 02-20-2017, 06:09 PM   #5
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I think we have had several threads about this in the past. Search for "estate planning".

I got a template for an estate planning book from my financial institution. It was a PDF and if things were simple you could just fill in the blank tables. However, I needed more space, so I transcribed the document into Word, and added tables for all the financial data. The main reason the document was helpful is that it reminded me of all the items I needed to include. I signed and dated the completed document and sent electronic copies to my lawyer, executors, and my safety deposit box.
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Old 02-20-2017, 06:56 PM   #6
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I started consolidating investment accounts a few years ago and now we are down to two Roths, two tIRAs, a brokearge account and a checking account. All with the same firm.

The funds inside these accounts are also down to 8 funds from about 20 or so.

I have a detailed instructions document in our safe deposit box that I update annually. This document has everything DW needs to manage after I'm gone. The kids also know the location of this document in case we both are not around anymore.
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Old 02-20-2017, 07:50 PM   #7
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I have an icon on my desktop called "My Stuff" In that folder are a number of documents on my computer. One is a list of all my holdings, along with who gets what as either POD or survivor.
Also very important is a list of all my passwords for the various accounts and a file that has a list of all the financial institutions with their phone number, address, and the account numbers.
I also gave my wife a hard copy of all these files
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Old 02-20-2017, 07:59 PM   #8
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I put together a financial plan document probably more than 20 years ago for DW. I update it annually. It includes income and spending projections, budgeting, net worth, investing and investment tools, retirement plans, investment and retirement tool discussions, insurance, aging, and wills, trusts, and estate planning. A lot of embedded spreadsheets and snapshots from Quicken which I use to track spending and investments and snapshots from all the investment and retirement planning tools. DW passed away several years ago, but I still keep the document up. It helps me remember what it was that got me to this retirement stage of life. DD also gets a copy so she can take over when I no longer can remember why I would want to keep such a document.
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Old 02-21-2017, 07:28 AM   #9
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The Big Book of Everything is a free resource that you should take a look at. This is a link to the page that has the pdf link..
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Old 02-21-2017, 07:58 AM   #10
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The Big Book of Everything is a free resource that you should take a look at. This is a link to the page that has the pdf link..
+1
Created a notebook with all the stuff I thought spouse needed if I'm not around. Used The Big Book of Everything to see what needed to be added. Our "big book" includes a documented financial plan on how we manage our investments to support our retirement.

Have a yearly review with spouse on what's in the book. We take the time to update anything that needs updating.

Simplified things as much as possible... got rid of extra credit cards, merged investments into 2 accounts, cut back number of investments, etc...

Periodically I have her perform specific activities that I normally do. I give her any help she needs. This gets her more familiar with my system and helps her understand it's not magic. Also shows me where things may be too complicated. Examples of things I have her do are:
- Walk through what's in our finanical accounts and discuss why we have those assets. What assets are liquidated for our expenses (for example).
- When I'm going to buy or sell an asset, we discuss why I'm going to do that and how it fits into our documented financial plan. Occasionally, she actually gets on the computer to make the trade.
- Have her occasionally pay the monthly bills so she sees which ones we pay by check, which are paid automatically and where the funds come from.
- When I call our Vanguard rep for something, she is usually involved in the discussion so she gets to know how this works. Important because our financial plan suggests she use Vanguard financial services if I pass and she's not comfortable managing our investments herself.

At first, she just wanted me to handle everything without bothering her. Now she almost always mentions she appreciates being involved when we do something. And she has a pretty good feel for how things work now.
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Old 02-21-2017, 08:11 AM   #11
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There are also some websites that help you consolidate everything into one place. Heirvault is an up and comer in this space.
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Old 02-21-2017, 08:11 AM   #12
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Thanks everyone - great comments and suggestions. I'll check them all out, including the Big Book!
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Old 02-21-2017, 08:14 AM   #13
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+1


At first, she just wanted me to handle everything without bothering her. Now she almost always mentions she appreciates being involved when we do something. And she has a pretty good feel for how things work now.
It sounds like you have achieved perfection on this! I'll work hard to get my wife to the same place, but I must say I'm not sure we'll get there. I may just not be as good a teacher as you are, Whisper66
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Old 02-21-2017, 08:56 AM   #14
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I maintain a Word document (currently 23 pages) that describes everything in enough detail that I think DW and/or one of our kids would be able to figure it out quite easily. It references websites, people, spreadsheets, and other related files that I maintain. But mostly it's just a description of where things are, how things are done, and why. It is divided into several sections including: Bills, Income, Insurance, Cars, Rental Houses, Bank Accounts, Credit Cards, Passwords, Credit Freeze, Investment Accounts, Pensions, Investment Strategy, Future Income & Withdrawal Plan, Taxes, Will & Related Documents. I try to read through it and make updates at least once per year. There's a hard copy with our will and other important documents.
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Old 02-21-2017, 08:59 AM   #15
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It sounds like you have achieved perfection on this! I'll work hard to get my wife to the same place, but I must say I'm not sure we'll get there. I may just not be as good a teacher as you are, Whisper66
LOL - Honestly, love her to death but my wife isn't financially inclined. Gets MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) if we talk too long about finances. So we pick and choose small chunks to talk about. Early on, I got her attention by asking her what she would do if I died? That got her realizing she didn't know how much we had or even where all our financial assets were. Wasn't sure we had enough to live off of nor how to make that work. Wasn't aware of how our bills were currently paid (though she used to do this job many years ago), or even simple things like if we still had life insurance. Realizing that can be an eye opener and provide incentive to learn a bit at a time. Now I think she's pretty comfortable that she'd manage fine without me which was my main goal. She's even run FireCalc and I-ORP to see for herself what our yearly budget should be limited to so our assets will outlast us. From MEGO to ORP...I'm happy.
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Old 02-21-2017, 09:08 AM   #16
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Before my father passed, he wrote a letter and gave each of his kids copies. It didn't use any formal planning software, but it not only listed the relevant accounts, it detailed where the files were located, contact numbers for work related accounts and other financial information. He also included practical info that my Mom would need - who delivers the oil and how often, the little tweaks he made to the boiler to keep it running, and where important documents were located.

He included some useful information about what investments my Mom should liquidate first if necessary and other useful information (medical files, where the deed to the grave is etc.) That letter has come in handy more than once and I appreciate the time he took to include all the household operational stuff.
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Old 02-21-2017, 09:24 AM   #17
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2. Get it Together (by Melanie Cullen, NOLO pub) - a workbook that includes
downloadable forms
DW and I are using this. It covers pretty much everything. We are in the process of filling out the forms, then will collect them in real and virtual binders and update once a year.
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Old 02-21-2017, 09:56 AM   #18
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This is also a timely topic for me, as I have been thinking about this lately. I've been using spreadsheets that track all my financial assets. For estate planning, I have a Living Trust document, which include the usual Pour over Will, Power of Atty, etc.

I like the idea of using online site that coordinate many of these documents, and provide access to selected individuals, as a way to manage the entire process. It seems to me this makes it a lot easier for family members, executors, etc.

I have looked at FidSafe, which is associated with Fidelity. I will look into HeirVault.
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Old 02-22-2017, 03:55 PM   #19
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DW and I are using this. It covers pretty much everything. We are in the process of filling out the forms, then will collect them in real and virtual binders and update once a year.


We are using the same book and keeping both virtual and hard copies. In the form we give directions on how to access our password app and where our investment statements are located on our computer so that hopefully the annual update should be easy. Been meaning to do this for a while and finally got around to it.
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