Women’s Guide to Preparing for Life’s What-Ifs: How to Get Your Home in Order

A lot goes into keeping your household running smoothly. From cleaning to upkeep and maintenance or repairs, these to-dos don’t disappear – even if you do. 

And renters don’t have it any easier. Even if you don’t own your home, there are likely still big pieces to your home life that will require some attention in your absence.

So, as part of my quest to organize my home and life this year, I’m turning to the next chapter in my guidebook: “In Case You Get Hit by a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later,” by Abby Schneiderman and Adam Seifer (founders of Everplans*) with Gene Newman. 

In the first part of this series, we talked about getting your finances in order so your surviving loved ones aren’t left trying to track everything down. 

This next step is all about how to organize your home (and everything in and around it), so that all your systems continue to function smoothly in the event of an emergency.

How to Organize Your Pad for When You’re Gone

It’s important to take a look around every part of your home (that creepy area in the basement you’ve been avoiding for years? Yep, that too!). It’s time to grab your pen and paper and carve out an afternoon to get everything in order.

Utilities

Some of the major aspects of your home might be hiding in plain sight, like your electricity, phones and internet.

Take a minute to check these things out – is there a light that always goes out? Where’s the fuse box located, and what do you do to fix it? 

Is your ancient home phone collecting dust in the corner, or is it bundled up with your internet package in a deal that’s too good to pass up? Do you own your own wifi equipment, or are you renting from the internet provider? 

Don’t forget your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors – when were they last replaced, anyway? And how does that HVAC system work? 

Write down all the answers to these questions and any relevant details – while this stuff may seem obvious to you, your loved ones will feel a little less lost sorting it out with your helpful notes. 

The Big Stuff

Next up: the big stuff – literally.

Is a piece of furniture in your living room especially valuable? And where did you get that amazing wallpaper in the guest bathroom? What about that hand-painted artwork hanging in your bedroom? 

This information could be invaluable to your loved ones in the case that they want to replace or fix up your digs. Make sure to include: 

  • Furniture
  • Paint colors and wallpaper brands
  • Decor
  • Fireplace (including care instructions and how to use)
  • Laundry machines
  • Kitchen appliancesIt’s a good idea to walk through each area of your home and list these big-ticket items based on their location.

The Little Stuff Now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty details 

This includes your security system. Whether it’s a high-tech camera run by a top-notch security company, or a neighbor with your spare key and a telescope pointed out their front window, you’ll need to write down a few key pieces of information. 

Likewise, any home automation systems (like Amazon Echos or a digital thermostat) should be included in your list. Write down the passwords, companies, and any other troubleshooting information that could be relevant in the future. 

Are there any small items that are particularly important or sentimental to you? Make sure your family will be able to find and properly care for them.

Outside Your Home

Just because it’s outside of your home doesn’t mean it’s not important. If you have any care instructions for your yard, make sure to include those in your list. You’ll also need to list any storage facilities you use, including their location, monthly price, what’s stored in them and a contact at the company. 

If you have any vehicles (including cars, boats, RVs or motorcycles), list out the makes, models, license plate numbers and any other relevant care information that your loved ones would need to know.

 

 

How to Create a Financial Overview for When You’re Gone

Women’s Guide to Preparing for Life’s What-Ifs: How to Organize Your Bill Paying and Financial Accounts 

 

 

I do not make New Year’s resolutions – if I get a good idea in September, I’ll implement it right then and there. No need to wait until the calendar says I can.

That said, there’s been something weighing on my mind for a while now that’s prompted me to begin a regular, non-New Year’s resolution: My entire family’s financial and estate financial planning is living in my head – and nowhere else.

While my husband takes care of home maintenance and other household tasks, the financial stuff has always been my area of expertise, and that’s always worked well for us. So what’s the issue?

If either of us were to be injured or otherwise incapacitated, the entire system would fall apart!

I may know how to balance a checkbook and file our taxes, but when it comes to operating the generator or starting a fire in our wood-burning stove, I’m pretty much helpless. Likewise, my husband would have a difficult time paying the household bills on time or locating contacts for our insurance policies.

So, this is the year I’m going to organize our lives, and I wanted to bring you along for the journey. While I handle the finances in my marriage, many women leave money matters up to their husbands – and are left struggling to make sense of it all after their husband passes away.

This is a common problem. Women on average have a life expectancy that is nearly five years longer than that of men. If the details of your financial situation are living in your husband’s head, then now is a good time to get them down on paper – no matter how old you are.

And that goes for single women, too. Your loved ones need to know where this information is if they have to help you.

I knew I’d need a little help getting started, so I’m turning to a book with a somewhat morbid title: “In Case You Get Hit by a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later,” by Abby Schneiderman and Adam Seifer (founders of Everplans*) with Gene Newman. I’ve found this book to be invaluable as I consider the steps I need to take to make sure I don’t leave behind a mess when I’m gone.

Get Started with Bill Paying and Financial Accounts

I’ll be starting with what I consider the most important item – bill paying and financial accounts and how to access them. After all, one of the most stressful parts of losing a spouse is making sure bills get paid on time and accounts don’t get lost. it doesn’t do any good to write important information down if others don’t know how to find it or what to do with it in your absence.

So many of my clients are facing the same situation my family is in: one spouse takes care of the bills while the other handles other parts of their lives. I have several clients I meet with without any involvement from their partner at all. In the case of a death or divorce, the surviving spouse is left without a clue, unable to access their money for weeks or even months.

Create a List of All Your Assets

The first step to organizing your assets is to take stock of what you’ve got and where it is. Most people have liquid assets, or funds that are easily accessible. This might include your checking and savings accounts at your local banks or any cash you keep on hand.

Then you have your reserve assets, the ones that would take some time and effort to retrieve (e.g., retirement accounts, real estate, life insurance policies). They’re still a part of your net worth, but you’re probably not going to be spending that money anytime soon.

Create a list of everything you own – liquid, reserve and everything in between. You can do this digitally, like in an Excel spreadsheet. If you’re more comfortable with a pen and paper, grab a legal pad.

You don’t need to include all the sensitive details like account numbers and passwords – yet. Just begin by listing the amount and where it’s kept. Remember, the goal is to make sure your family knows where to look when you’re not there to point them in the right direction.

Information to consider including in your list:

  • The money amount
  • Where the money is located
  • A personal contact (that works at the relevant institution, like your regular banker)
  • Where you’ve stored any relevant paperwork
    • This could be online, in a safe, or with another person

Don’t Forget the Paperwork

Speaking of important paperwork, you probably also have some assets that aren’t in dollar form, but also have some value. This could include the deed to your home or titles to any vehicles you own.

When creating your list of assets, make sure  include these items:

  • The deed to your home
  • The title to your vehicle(s)
  • Court orders
  • Contracts
  • Certificates of authenticity
  • Certificates of ownership for any valuable family heirlooms or other big-ticket items

It’s okay if you don’t know the exact value of these items, because they tend to fluctuate over time rather than maintaining a set price. The important thing is to list where your loved ones can find all the important documentation attached to each of the items.

Consider the Benefits

You may also qualify for revenue streams that your loved ones could benefit from in the event of your passing, like a pension, Social Security, disability insurance, unemployment benefits, longevity insurance or child support.

If you’re receiving or plan on collecting money from one or more of these benefits programs, you’ll want to provide some relevant details.

Be sure to include:

  • Details or relevant paperwork
  • How and where you get paid
  • A contact familiar with your account
  • Any online details they may need

If you are a veteran or active military member, you may also be due a military burial upon your passing. To help your loved ones cover burial costs and collect any other survivor benefits, make sure you include discharge papers or any other relevant military paperwork in your assets list.

Join Together with Joint Bank Accounts

After you’ve got your list of assets put together, the next step is to ensure you and your spouse are both listed on your bank accounts.

When only one of you is listed as an account holder, you risk having the account frozen upon your death, which could leave your spouse unable to access any of that money and create unnecessary complications with bill-paying after you’re gone.

Safety First

You may have heard that safe deposit boxes are a secure spot for all your important stuff. If your house burns down, you’ve still got your safe deposit box, right?

Maybe.

The reality is that safe deposit boxes aren’t protected by any federal laws – if your items are stolen or misplaced by the bank, you have no recourse for compensation.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use a safe deposit box – they can be a great spot to keep your heirlooms, insurance policies or even things you want your family to inherit after you’re gone. However, they may not be the right place to store things you think you’ll need access to quickly in case of an emergency, like an Advanced Directive or Power of Attorney.

Most importantly, you’ll want to grant a close loved one or other trusted confidant access to your safe deposit box. Otherwise, they’ll need a court order to gain access after your passing, which can be a lengthy and cost-heavy process. Your bank should be able to assist you in naming a designated trustee or authorized user.

Grow with Gasber

Need some guidance in your financial journey? Gasber Financial Advisors, Inc. is here to help. With nearly three decades of experience in financial planning, our firm has the knowledge and expertise to set your family up for long-term success. Click here to connect with one of our team members in a complimentary consultation today.

 

*Everplans is an easy-to-access, secure digital archive where you can store everything described above throughout your life. At Gasber Financial we believe so strongly in organizing that we provide all clients with access to their own Everplan account. Find out more at www.everplans.com.

5 things you need to know about financial planning

Women Helping Women 

You’ve heard about financial planning, but what’s so important about it? Well, a good financial plan maps out where you are, where you want to be, and becomes the roadmap that helps you get from here to there. Here are five main things to understand about financial planning. 

  1. A financial plan helps you define your goals

One of the most important pieces of a financial plan is defining your long-term goals. Maybe you want to own a second home or travel the world. Maybe you want to pay for college and retire comfortably in Napa. Or perhaps you want to ensure you never have to rely on anyone else financially again. Whatever your unique goals, your financial plan should include them. 

  1. A financial plan helps you reach for your goals

Any financial plan worth its salt should map out how you will achieve your goals. It will consider your current net worth, your cash flow, income sources and more. Your plan will include all of your current obligations, like mortgage and insurance, and will outline specific amounts to put aside each month toward savings, college, retirement and other specific goals.

 A financial plan can help you prepare for unexpected events

Good financial plans should include a cushion of extra funds that are set aside to help you pay for unexpected events—both good and bad. So, whether you decide to take your family on a trip to celebrate the end of quarantine, or you need to replace your roof, you’ll be prepared. 

  1. A financial plan helps you stay on track toward your goals

Financial plans can help you stay on track toward your goals in multiple ways. First, they give you a framework for making decisions. For example, if you are considering a major purchase not in your plan, looking at it in the context of how it could affect your plan can be quite helpful. If it has no impact, you may decide to do it, but if it might delay your progress, you have the opportunity to weigh your decision and determine if you think the tradeoff is worth it or not. 

Second, financial plans give you a benchmark to measure against. As such, they should be reviewed regularly in order to track your progress toward your goals. In fact, sometimes, just knowing that things are being looked at regularly can motivate you to stay on the straight and narrow as well. 

  1. Financial plans should evolve

A good financial plan should not be static, but a living document that evolves as your needs and life changes over time. During your regular reviews, you should be considering not only your progress and investment performance, but how your life may have changed. Perhaps you had another child or got a new job, or maybe your mother passed away. Or perhaps you’ve decided that you don’t really want that vacation home anymore, but would rather upgrade your existing home. There are any number of things that may change from year to year, so it’s important to communicate these during your review. 

When done well, with the assistance of a professional, financial planning should help you to reduce financial stress today, while helping you achieve your goals for tomorrow.

 

Gasber Financial is happy to create a financial plan for you or to review and update your existing financial plan in order to help ensure your future is everything you want it to be.

 

Market Noise

What to Make of Recent Market Hype

Women Helping Women  

There’s little doubt that the markets of 2020 acted in some surprising ways, but that was nothing compared to what happened in the markets during the week of January 25th. Whether you invested in it or not, you likely heard about how a group of investors on Reddit drove up the stock price of GameStop from around $39/share on January 20th to a high of $483 on January 28th

So, the questions are what happened and what should we do the next time it happens/how much attention should we give to this type of hype event? 

The short (and long) story

You may already understand what selling short is, but in case you don’t or don’t remember, here’s a refresher. Short selling is when you borrow shares of a stock that you think will go down in price in order to sell it now, with the plan being to buy it back when the shares decrease so you can return the stock you borrowed and profit from the difference. For example, you sell XYZ stock at $100 and it goes down to $50, you buy it and return the shares, keeping the $50/share difference in price. 

The challenge is that if the price increases, you can lose a lot of money. If the shares of XYZ rise to $150, for example, you’re losing $50/share when you have to replace the shares. 

A number of hedge funds had taken significant short positions in GameStop because the stock had been trading under $20 for the better part of 3+ years, so when it went to around $40, they believed it would go down. The group on Reddit could accomplish two things by purchasing the stock en masse:

  • They could start driving the stock price up so they could profit significantly in a short amount of time
  • They could cause significant losses for the hedge funds—who drove the stock up further as they frantically tried to buy back the stock to limit their losses (it’s estimated that this cost hedge funds $5 billion)
  • They could make a political statement about Wall Street institutions 

There were a number of other issues you may have heard about including how RobinHood, a popular investing technology for independent investors, paused trading a few times. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t that they were bowing to pressure from Wall Street, but were trying to meet regulations for deposits on hand and to reduce their own exposure (risk) to the stock. You can learn more about the whole thing from this informative video by the 401KLADY. 

What’s next?

While there currently aren’t regulations to stop this type of investment hyping from happening again, there likely will be in the future. But for now, you may be wondering if you should try to jump in on something like this the next time it happens. To answer that, consider the following: 

  1. We heard a lot about how individuals profited insanely in a short amount of time, but lots of investors lost money too. While the stock is still far above the long-term average (as of February 10th, it was between $50-$60/share), lots of investors who jumped on the bandwagon at $120, $200, $300 and more have now lost significant value per share.
  2. When it comes to investing, you should keep a focus on the long-term. Trying to manage a portfolio by riding these types of waves will be incredibly challenging and more than a little bit painful.
  3. Research has proven that, for most of us, by the time we hear about something like this, it’s already too late to benefit. 

 

Gasber Financial is here to help you simplify the markets and your finances. We’re happy to help you with any questions you may have about this or other events.

Getting on Track Financially for 2021

Women helping women 

To say the least, 2020 was unusual in many respects. With the pandemic, business shutdowns, stay-at-home orders and a highly contentious election, the year was definitely one for the history books. It was also an unusual year from a financial perspective. 

Many individuals saved money, as we were not commuting as much, eating out, spending money on entertainment, or buying as many dressy clothes. On the other hand, we may have been spending more on:

  • The food we were cooking and/or ordering in
  • Utilities with more lights, electronics and networking expenses
  • Online shopping in general to alleviate the boredom and stress from being at home 

And because most of us had our routines completely disrupted, tracking our spending and savings may have fallen by the wayside. The new year is a good time to focus on finances. So here are a few ideas.

 

Get tracking

It’s important to understand where your money is going. And if you didn’t save as much as you expected, to understand why. Consider:

  1. If you did track your money, consider comparing 2020 to 2019. How different was it? Which categories increased and which decreased?
  2. You’ll want to consider categories for income, fixed expenses (such as mortgage, car payments), and discretionary expenses at least.
  3. Now, look your totals. Did your outflow exceed your income, such that you were relying on credit cards? If so, how much debt are you carrying and what is it costing to service the debt? 

If you don’t track your spending, consider doing so now. Grab your checkbook and credit card statements and look at where your money went, trying to get an idea of what changed over time.

If you don’t enjoy doing this by hand, there are a number of apps, budgeting programs, and spreadsheets you can use to keep track of it more easily and follow the process above.

 

One step at a time

If it seems overwhelming to look at the whole year at once, consider looking at it one month at a time. The idea is simply to get a realistic picture of how much you earn and spend over time. We believe you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. So, gaining an understanding of where your money is going is critical to helping you to plan for a better year this year, hopefully increasing your savings over time.

 

Gasber Financial is here to help you plan for the future. We’re happy to help you look at your monthly and yearly spending, to help you determine places where you can save, and to help you best determine how to pay off any debt you may have accumulated. Please call for more information or with any questions you may have.