While noone likes to imagine a time when they can't manage their own finances, it's better to be prepared. If something were to happen to the spouse, partner or significant other that manages your family's finances, is the other party prepared to pay the bills and make the important financial decisions?
Though a significant majority (more than 92 percent) of American couples surveyed indicate that they share financial decision-making responsibilities, 2014 research indicates that, regardless of age group,
financial roles tend to split down gender lines. In most cases, men tend to make more wealth management and investment planning decisions, while women tend to manage bill paying.
There's nothing inherently wrong with this tendency, but in the case of a disability, a long-term illness or a serious injury, one partner may have to take over — and they may not be ready. Here's why it's important for both parties to be prepared to take charge financially, should the need arise.
Investment Guidance: What do Both Partners Need to Know?
The first step in preparing both parties involves creating a list of important contact information. To get started, grab your laptop, open up a spreadsheet, and fill in the following information:
- Employment Information: Your significant other will need to contact your employer, should something happen to you
- Both parties' employer's names and contact information, including manager or supervisors' direct lines
- The person at your work who manages your retirement accounts
- Life Insurance Information: Your spouse will need the following information in order to get the life insurance distribution process started
- Life insurance agent's name and contact information
- Life insurance policy numbers
- Credit Line Information: Your spouse or partner will need to contact your creditors in case you pass away
- List every line of credit and loan, including mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit cards and any bank credit lines
- Note account numbers and contact information for each
- Retirement Account Information: Your significant other will need access to all your retirement accounts
- Note account names, numbers, contact information and balances for all 401k plans, IRA accounts, and pension plans
- Online Accounts: Ensure that your spouse or partner can access financial accounts online
- List all websites, account numbers, user IDs, logins and passwords
Financial Planning Tools: Creating a Plan
Now that you've developed a list of essential financial information, work with your trusted family wealth advisor to create a financial plan going forward. This comprehensive financial plan should incorporate financial strategies that will not only support the family in the present, but will carry the family through to retirement years.
We suggest developing a monthly worksheet that lists all expenses, with details such as how much is due and when payments must be made. This will help the surviving spouse pay all bills on time and remove some stress. This worksheet should be considered a dynamic document that changes over time; this requires regular, frequent updates.
Reviewing this worksheet together now will ensure familiarity in the future, should the unthinkable occur. Along with a copy that's easily accessible, such as on a laptop, keep this document safe by backing it up on a flash drive or external hard drive that's stored in a secure location.
Taking time now to plan for the future can offer financial peace of mind.