Why it is important: You need to get organized today for two people:
For yourself. This is the foundation of all of your future financial decisions. It is impossible to make informed financial choices without first understanding where you are. Once you know where you are, you can clarify what your long term financial goals are. Only then will you be able to identify what you need to do to take you from where you are in your financial life to where you are trying to go. You deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are taking the necessary steps to achieve your financial goals.
For your loved ones. It’s not fun to talk about. If something happens to you tomorrow – where does that leave your family? Will they be able to pull all of the pieces together if you’re gone? During my career I’ve seen countless situations where someone’s own procrastination became the burden of their surviving spouse or children. The degree of difficulty is increased because they don’t necessarily know where everything is located, how your accounts are titled, or who the beneficiaries are. You owe it not only to yourself, but to your loved ones to get organized and take control of your own financial future.
Why we put it off: You already know getting your financial life in order is important. So why do so many of us put it off? For many, simply inertia can be tough to overcome. What makes matters worse is our fear of the potential for “bad news”. This makes us put off this task even longer, which only amplifies the problem because the longer we wait, the more disorganized we become.
Oftentimes, it’s the people that need to see a doctor the most that put it off the longest. We are all afraid of what we don’t want to hear. We also know that visiting a doctor should be a priority so we can live happy and healthy lives. Fear can be a powerful driving factor in not only our healthcare decisions, but our financial decisions as well. Don’t be the patient that waits until their health is in such bad shape that they are forced into the doctor’s office.
Perhaps all of this is best said by an old Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Let’s get this one checked off your list.
The Plan: The final hurdle that many still trip on is not knowing where to start.
Ask yourself the question: “If I were to get in an accident tomorrow, what information would my loved ones need?” Anything on that list is something to include in your financial plan.
To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of what information you need to gather and where to find it to get organized. Getting organized will help you make informed financial choices, and your loved ones will have access to information when they need it most.
Note I have created this list tailored for Mayo Clinic employees. If you have another employer, the information to gather will be the same, but you will need to locate your company specific pension, employer benefits, and employer sponsored retirement plan.
|Financial Data to Organize||Best Source|
|Income & Tax Information||Any of these sources will give you an accurate representation of your income:
|Social Security Retirement Benefits||
|Employer Benefits||Benefits to locate and save are:
From Intranet – best to use for most detailed summary
Not on intranet – less detail but may be used for limited information
Detailed Mayo Clinic benefit information can be found at:
|Employer Sponsored Retirement Plan||Any of these methods will give you a view of your 403(b) or employer sponsored plan
|Investment Accounts||Any of these methods will give you a view of your other investment accounts
|Student Loans||For federal student loans:
For private student loans:
|Debt||Consider mortgage, car loans, other debt, and credit cards you carry a balance on.
Now that you have all this data, what next?
Depending on how handy you are with a spreadsheet you can begin to construct your net worth and identify savings trends. You can also aggregate all of your information in one place such as Mint or another account aggregation service.
Perhaps you were a “do-it yourselfer”, but ran into more complex financial planning needs such as estate planning, investments, tax planning, retirement planning, college funding, roth conversions, social security optimization, deciding to buy or rent, the list goes on. Whatever the initial need is, a financial planner can help you navigate its complexities and ensure you’re not missing other integral parts of your financial life. For those that don’t have the time, desire, or expertise to manage this on their own, it’s time to hire a professional to help you get organized and stay on track.
A good financial planner will often offer an account aggregator for you to use that will flow the real-time data from your accounts to your financial plan. For my clients, I use Capitect for secure file storage and account aggregation, and MoneyGuidePro for the financial plan. Wherever you keep this information, make sure security is a priority so nobody has access to this information unless a triggering event occurs such as disability or death.
As always, if you choose to hire a financial professional, I recommend first reading What to Look for in a Financial Advisor to ensure whoever you hire, you can feel comfortable that they have your best interest at heart.