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- What, Where and Who? Who handles the finances in your family? If you're like most families, both you and your spouse have certain responsibilities. One of you may balance the checkbook while the other handles the retirement planning. Maybe one of you handles the budget while the other takes care of the insurance. You work as a team to make sure that all of the bases are covered. What if something were to happen to one of you? Would the other be able to easily step in and take over? What if something happened to both of you? Are your affairs organized enough for your successors to step in and manage things for your children? If not, you need to spend some time getting things organized. While not a comprehensive list, a few of the things you should write down include: - Who are your advisors and how can they be contacted? - What assets do you have and what financial institutions are holding them? - What liabilities do you have? - What insurance coverages do you have and where are the policies located? - Where is your will or estate plan located? By having these things written out with a few simple instructions, you will help to avoid a great many stresses and problems at an already difficult time. Life Insurance When people have children, often times one of the first financial moves they make is to increase their life insurance coverage. As a new parent, I realize that our daughter is 100% dependent on my wife and I.
- Check Your Records It pays to be careful and save your W-2s. I ordered my first Social Security statement in 1987. I carefully checked that every prior year's stated earnings matched what I had in my records. After that, I ordered statements every few years and only checked that the latest numbers were correct. Then in 1997, I decided to determine if I could retire early and was looking over my various Social Security statements. Much to my shock and chagrin, I found that the amount of money shown as my earnings for 1977 had mysteriously been drastically reduced on my 1988 statement and forward. I called the Social Security Administration and opened a claim. Then, I mailed them a copy of my W-2 from 1977. They corrected the error! By my calculations, it will mean a difference of about $25/month in my future benefits, which will really add up over the years. Now I scrutinize my yearly Social Security statements more carefully. SSA was never able to tell me how my earnings for that year were reduced by more than 50%, but at least they were willing to correct the error even though I didn't notice it for 10 years!