Protecting Your Vital Documents

I read this article about protecting your vital documents way back in June and just remembered it last night when I was going through my saved WSJ articles. I think it offers some helpful advice on backing up documents digitally.

Their advice:

1. Take inventory of all vital documents.

In one group, include crucial items such as car titles, wills, powers of attorney, life-insurance policies, medical directives, deeds, licenses, and pension and retirement-plan documents.

In another group, include items you probably will never need but might want to archive, such as old tax returns, brokerage statements and records of when you established individual retirement accounts.

2. Make copies of everything.

The most practical way to duplicate files nowadays is to scan them. It takes little more time than making photocopies, and will save you from ever needing to make or mail a copy again.

We bought a new HP printer less than a year ago. I have to say that the new technology makes scanning MUCH quicker than it used to be. Our printer (HP Officejet Pro 8600 Premium) was pricey but I’m sure there are cheaper printers that would do just as good of a job. The process is relatively pain-free.

3. Store electronically.

The author recommends storing documents on a cloud server via a service like Dropbox, Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Google’s Google Drive, or Apple’s iCloud. They recommend password-protecting files, which can be a pain. One other option is VaultWorthy, which uses encryption to store files. The service costs $12.95 a month and lets users store up to 50 documents on their servers. Kind of pricey but might be worth it.

Something to think about.

Do You Know Your Stuff?

I was watching Fox Business News yesterday and one of the segments featured an interview with a lady from the Insurance Information Institute ( They were talking about the fires going on out in California and what people should do to help prepare themselves should they lose everything. One of the things the lady suggested was to use Know Your Stuff, which is a program that users can download FREE of charge. The program is designed to help users keep track of their belongings.

I think this is a great idea. Another great idea is to go through your house inch-by-inch with a video camera. The video can be used as a reminder of what exactly you had should you ever lose anything in a fire or some other disaster. Just be sure that you keep a copy of the video in your personal safe or safe deposit box.

Finally, one other thing the lady from III suggested was making sure your insurance is updated when you make a large purchase. Yes, it will mean an increase in your premium, but it will also mean that you’re covered.

OT: How Many Emails Do You Have in Your Inbox Right Now?

I have NINE!

I spent some time over the weekend deleting and organizing my emails. My inbox contained over 1,200 emails before I started cleaning.

I spent some time setting up folders for the emails that I wanted/needed to keep. Then I simply moved those emails to their proper folder and deleted the rest. I’m now down to 9 emails in my inbox and I’m committed to cleaning it out daily.

I told my wife about my inbox feat and she told me that she has over 4,000 emails in her inbox. It’ll take her a long time to get that organized!

How about you? Are you an email hoarder or purger or just plain lazy?

Tuesday’s GIVEAWAY

Today’s giveaway is CrossItOff.list, which is a little book for making to-do lists. Sure, you can accomplish the same thing with a notebook. This just does it with some style.

To be entered into the giveaway, simply leave a comment below. I just have two rules:

1. You must be a resident of the U.S. or Canada, and…

2. You can only enter ONE TIME!

I’ll announce the randomly-selected winners tomorrow morning.


Get Yourself Organized GIVEAWAY!

I was in Target the other day, waiting while my wife picked out greeting cards (boring). As I waited, I came across Target’s organization section and that’s where I found Life.doc. Life.doc is an oranization binder created by a company called Buttoned Up. Life.doc is just one of several products that Buttoned Up offers.

Since I’m ALWAYS thinking about AllFinancialMatters, I decided to pick up two of the binders (one for me to try out and one to giveaway to one of my lucky readers!).

I haven’t had time to fully investigate Life.doc yet but I have at least looked through it. The binder contains tabs and information sheets for the following areas:

  • Emergency Plan
  • Family Basics
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Dollars & Sense
  • Legal Information
  • Caregiver Information (for both kids and older parents)
  • Household Information

The cool thing is that the binder comes with a CD Rom that contains all the documents as Word files that you can fill out on the computer. Once you have the document filled out, you can save it to your hard drive and also print it on the corresponding form that comes in the binder. This will give your binder a nice, clean look. It’s also great if you have sloppy handwriting.

Now, this is by no means a complete organization system. This is essentially a place to store all the information about your accounts, important phone numbers, contact information, account locations, etc. I don’t know about you but one of the frustrating things to me is when I need an account number or something like that and I have to spend time looking for the information. If you use the Life.doc binder correctly, you’ll have that information at your fingertips.

Here’s the really cool part: I’m giving away a Life.doc binder to ONE lucky reader. To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment. The drawing is open to residents of the United States and Canada. I’ll randomly select a winner on Wednesday. GOOD LUCK.

Oh, and if you don’t win, you can purchase a Life.doc binder for yourself either through the Buttoned Up website for $29.99 or at Target for $19.99.

Question of the Day – “Helping” Your Friends

A reader sent me an email that contained the following question:

A friend of mine asked for my advice on how to approach a friend of hers who needs some help getting her finances organized. My friend also has a couple names of professionals who might be able to provide help. What do you think is the best way for her to broach the subject?

Wow! I don’t know. Advice given without first being asked for advice, doesn’t work and can easily alienate the receiver. If this person has a close relationship with her friend, the best thing to do would be to just start a dialogue about finances in general and hope that the other person opens up. It may take a while because people tend to keep their finances in a lockbox and don’t discuss them with their friends. However, if this person is feeling overwhelmed with their situation, they may secretly want some help but just don’t know who or how to ask.

To start the dialogue (listen to me try to sound like a communications expert), here are a conversation-starters that might work:

1. “My 401(k) grew x% last year.”

2. “I just read a really good personal finance book…”

3. “My favorite blog is” (hey, it couldn’t hurt!)

4. “My life has been so much easier since I started banking online.”

5. “You need to get your act together!” (don’t really use this one.)

6. “Have you ever thought about what you want to do when you retire?”

7. “Man am I glad I have an emergency fund.”

8. “Well, I finally paid off my last credit card…”

There’s a few that I can think of. I’m sure there’s lots more that might help get things started. The main thing is to take it easy. If the friend doesn’t take the bait, don’t push it.

Now I would like to know what you guys think. What are your thoughts on this topic?