It doesn’t matter how much money you have, at least for planning purposes, but where you keep it.
To help you organize your assets in a simple and effective way, use these four water-based categories, along with a bunch of examples we include, to begin the process of mapping everything out.
This is money you can access immediately:
- Checking and Savings accounts
- Investments (including online only accounts like E-Trade or Betterment)
- A hidden Stash
- Regular income, which could be a Paycheck, Annuity, or if you were lucky enough to win the Lottery and receive installment payments
- Disability payments
- Unemployment, which has sadly become a factor for millions since the COVID-19 crisis
- Social Security or other benefits from the government
- Pension or benefits from your career
- Alimony & Child Support, unless you’re the one paying
- A substantial amount of Gift Cards or Unclaimed Refunds
This is money that’s tied up but can still be accessed under the right circumstances:
- Your Home and Vehicles if either is owned outright (if mortgaged or leased, that’s a different task)
- Money Market account
- Any Business Interests or Stock Options
- A Trust Fund
- Money people owe you and how likely you are to collect
This is money that’s tied up and will incur penalties, or make you feel very guilty, if you withdraw it too soon (like raiding your a retirement fund and facing serious tax implications):
- 403(b) (For those who don’t know, this is a retirement account often available to employees of tax-exempt organizations and public school workers)
- IRA and Roth IRA
- 529/College Savings
- Certificate of Deposit (CD)
Finally, this is money that isn’t money yet but could turn liquid depending on its current value, the market, or other circumstances:
- Life Insurance -- We have a separate task that digs into this, so only focus on the total value if you have an active policy
- Tangible assets such as Land, Businesses, and Equipment
- Valuable Assets such as Jewelry and Collections
- Intellectual Property
- Patents and Copyrights or Trademarks
- Rewards and Miles -- while these are often closely tied to credit cards, if you’ve built up a substantial amount of points then they should be treated as a possible cash asset
Now that you know what you’re looking for, once you have a clear picture of all you have it’s time to answer the following questions for each:
- Where is it? It could be as simple as the bank name or investment house. If it’s only online, or you primarily access it online, the login information should be included with your passwords.
- Is there an account or PIN number you feel comfortable sharing? If you have a Power Of Attorney (something we explain in a separate task) then you’ll want to share it with that person. If you think it won’t cause any harm, safely share it with someone you trust. You make the call.
- Is there a personal contact? This is mainly if you use a broker or advisor or anyone that could provide details or assistance to your family.
- Is there any relevant paperwork, contracts, documents, or statements that accompany this money? Think of each account and asset. Most are probably online, which should be shared with your passwords and allow a trustworthy person in your life to access past statements.
You don’t have to get fancy right now. You can list out what comes to mind on a piece of paper or note-taking app on your phone. Perhaps you’re ahead of the game and use an online financial aggregation tool, like Mint or Clarity Money (something covered in a separate task), to keep everything in one place and easily accessible.
Make sure the basic details for all your financial accounts and assets are in one place so they’re easy to locate so your family doesn’t let anything fall through the cracks if they need to make sense of your money.