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Organizing Your Important Documents: Final Thoughts (Part 5)

Guest post from Mandy White

There has been a lot of information given over the last week in this series. Compiling and typing everything will take some time. Don’t expect to get it all done in one sitting. Also, don’t be afraid to make adjustments to the index, adding or deleting sections if necessary. This is your book for your family, so put it together in a way that makes the most sense to you!

Over the last six years, I have occasionally noticed things I am missing, or make a change that makes it just a little better. I hope you do the same as you start to use your book.

Something I did recently that I have really liked is to create two additional parts of our Brain Book:

  1. The first is a three-prong folder that has a copy of our bill accounts page, bank accounts page, and debit card page. This makes paying bills online a lot easier than having to get out the entire 3” notebook.
  2. The other part is a second notebook. It is a 2” binder and contains three-ring zippered pockets, and the multi-page sheet protectors mentioned back in the suggested supplies on Day 1. I call it the Brain Book Supplement. In it, I keep our travel hard-drive, cash emergency fund, life insurance policies, and anything else that is bulky. This is totally not necessary, but moving these items makes handling the original Brain Book a lot easier.

I cannot overstate the importance of both a fire safe and a shredder! If you are going to invest in a fire safe, make sure it is large enough for your notebook. (The first one I ever got wasn’t – that’s how I know!) If you have one that is small enough to be carried, make sure that it is well hidden.

You can get an inexpensive shredder at Target or Walmart. though, Sam’s Club and Costco carry ones that are larger and more heavy-duty.

When you assemble your notebook, it is helpful to create section dividers and print them on cardstock. Put them in sheet protectors, and attach your index tabs. Avery has come out with great color-coded adhesive divider tabs that you can write on. I found mine at Target, but I saw a larger pack of them at Sam’s Club just the other day.

The cheapest place to buy your notebook is Sam’s Club or Costco. However, they come in either 2-packs or 4-packs depending on what size you get, so split the pack with a friend. Those two places are also the cheapest source of page protectors. The best place I found for multi-sheet page protectors to hold life insurance policies, etc. is Amazon.

Again, it is time consuming, but so worth it to have all of this information organized and readily accessible. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment, and I will try to help!

Mandy White is blessed to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. She and her amazing husband have three amazing kids. She loves to serve others, and her favorite time of year is fall.  Unfortunately, in Arizona, fall doesn’t start until November!

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Organizing Your Important Documents: Property (Part 4)

Missed the other posts in this series? Read them here.

Guest post from Mandy White

Today is Day 4 of Organizing Your Important Documents, and marks our last section: Property Information. On Monday, we will go over some suggestions and tips for putting everything together, but the hard parts of gathering and compiling are nearly through.

Once again, please make sure you are using a secure computer or hand-writing this information. Let’s get started!

Home

Property Deed or Lease Agreement

Mortgage/lease information

Mortgage/lease holder contact information

Monthly payment amount and due date

Start date and term length of mortgage/lease

Home or Rental Insurance policy, and agent contact information

Property Tax information

Inventory of major household items (excluding electronics; be sure to include jewelry, art, and major household appliances like the Central AC/Heating Unit)

Item description, Serial Number, Year purchased

Replacement value and receipt (if you have it)

Warranty and repair information

List of major renovations or upgrades

Project, Date, Cost of projects

Contractor’s contact information (if applicable)

Vehicles

Vehicle Title

Insurance

Insurance company and agent contact information

Policy

COPY of your insurance ID card

Motor Vehicle Division information and COPY of vehicle registration

Note: PLEASE don’t put your actual registration in here! That needs to remain in your vehicle, along with your original insurance ID card.

Maintenance/repair receipts

Any other vehicle documents (such as Bill of Sale)

Computer(s)

Software registrations and key codes

Wi-fi password

Backup of your computer, updated regularly

We were extremely blessed to receive a travel hard-drive for Christmas to use to backup our computer. It is designed for this exact purpose, and came with the software to do so already loaded. However, travel hard-drives aren’t exactly cheap, so watch for sales, or think about requesting one as a gift. If you participate in the rewards programs from the office supply stores, you might want to save up enough points to purchase one.

As great as travel hard-drives are, using flash drives, or even DVD’s are also effective backup methods, and less expensive. You just want to make sure your pictures and data are protected from loss. Because our travel hard-drive is kind of bulky (about the size of a large smart phone), I keep it in a zippered pocket in the “Brain Book Supplement”. This is a second book that is specifically for bulky items. I will give you more information on it tomorrow.

Electronics

Inventory of electronic items

Item description

Serial Number

Year purchased

Replacement value and receipt (if you have it)

Warranty and repair information

If you like, you may download a printable version of this index (for personal use only).

Tomorrow, we will finish up with some final notes and tips for putting everything together.

Mandy White is blessed to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. She and her amazing husband have three amazing kids. She loves to serve others, and her favorite time of year is fall. Unfortunately, in Arizona, fall doesn’t start until November!

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Organizing Your Important Documents: Finances & Other Accounts (Part 3)

Missed the other posts in this series? Read them here.

Guest post from Mandy White

Today, we are going to work on Financial & Other Accounts. The “Other Accounts” refers to accounts you may have that don’t require a monthly payment, such as email, Costco, or the library.

Again, we are working with very sensitive information, so only use a secure computer, or hand-write your information.

Banks

Bank contact information, closest location, bank routing number

List of all accounts with full account number, website, log-in information, and answers to security questions

Note: I found it easiest to put all accounts with each particular bank on one page, such as credit union accounts on one page, ING accounts on another page.

Any other bank information (like safe-deposit boxes)

Debit Cards / Credit Cards

List of all debit cards. For each one, list:

Bank and account the card is for

Description of card (ie: blue and gold with the bank logo on it)

Account number

Security code (on the back)

PIN

Major backing company (ie: Visa or Master Card)

Emergency phone number (usually on the back)

Website, log-in information, and answers to security questions

Copy of the front and back of the card

Bills

List of all bill accounts. For each one, list:

Company name and contact information

Account number

Website, log-in information, answers to security questions, and online bill pay information

Copy of your typical monthly budget

Income, Retirement, and Investments

Sources of income, pay frequency, company contact information, Payroll/HR contact information

List of all retirement accounts

Company name and contact information

Account number

Website, log-in information, answers to security questions

Most recent account statement

All pertinent information regarding non-retirement investments, including most recent account statements, list of property holdings, etc.

Other Accounts or Memberships

List of all other accounts or memberships

Note: Basically, if it requires a user name and password, and you haven’t already listed it somewhere else in the book, then it goes on this list. I found it easiest to create one spreadsheet with 5 columns: Company, Account Number, Website, User

Name, Password. Everything from email to the library are listed alphabetically on this one sheet.

Professional Service Contacts:

Professional services contacts (accountant, lawyer, financial adviser, insurance agent, etc.)

The Big Three

Contact information for Equifax, Transunion, and Experian

Copy of most recent credit report from annualcreditreport.com

Note: Most financial professionals advise getting one credit report every four months, using AnnualCreditReport.com. This way, you can monitor your credit report throughout the year. I found it hard to remember when I needed to check it again, so I started writing it on the calendar. Be sure to note which company’s report you are checking during which month.

Any other Big Three documents (ie: Fraud Alert letters, etc.)

Income Tax Information

Copy of your most recent tax return

PIN’s for signing returns electronically

Any tax information or documents collected throughout the year

If you like, you may download a printable version of this index (for personal use only).

Tomorrow, we will start the Property section.

Mandy White is blessed to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. She and her amazing husband have three amazing kids. She loves to serve others, and her favorite time of year is fall. Unfortunately, in Arizona, fall doesn’t start until November!

Photo source

Organizing Your Important Documents: Family & Personal Information (Part 2)

Guest post from Mandy White

Now that you have all your necessary supplies, the next step is to start gathering all your information. Today, we’ll start with the first section of your binder: Family and Personal Information. This includes everything from phone numbers, to birth certificates, to estate documents. It is a lot of gathering and typing, but it is crucial to have this information readily available.

This is also the section to put any priceless letters or documents. I have a letter from my mom that she wrote to me when I was two years old. She died a few years ago, and this is a priceless treasure to me, so I keep it in my personal section.

NOTE: Please be sure to use a secure computer, or even hand-write things, as this is very sensitive information!

Whole Family Information

Marriage Certificate

Phone Numbers and Addresses

Note: Include any anyone that you frequently contact or would need to contact in an emergency. I split ours into two pages. The first is phone numbers that are important to our household (schools, doctor’s offices, etc.). The second is a sheet of extended family phone numbers and addresses (limited to our siblings and parents). I printed a second copy of both pages for the side of our refrigerator.

Individuals Information

Master Page: Create a master page for each family member that includes his or her full name, birth date, social security number, driver’s license number, and passport number. File each person’s individual documents in sheet protectors following the master page.

Birth Certificate

Social Security Card

Copy of Driver’s License

Passport

Any other individual documents (adoption records, military papers, transcripts, certifications, etc.)

Whole Family Medical

Medical, dental, and vision insurance information

Copies of insurance cards

Contact information for medical professionals, urgent care, hospital, and pharmacy

Individual Medical

Master Page: As before, create an information page for each person that includes his or her full name, birth date, medical conditions, drug allergies, and major surgeries/medical events. File individual medical documents in sheet protectors following each person’s master page.

Immunization Records

Any other medical papers or records

Personal Preparedness

Estate documents (wills, trust, etc.)

Note: We keep all of our estate documents together in a separate binder. If you choose to do the same, simply put a note in this section stating where the information can be found. Remember, this section isn’t for you; it is for those that will be left behind if something should happen to you.

Life Insurance

Life Insurance policy

Agent/company contact information

Due dates and amount due

Receipts

Funeral information, deeds for burial plots, etc.

Pets

Veterinarian contact information

Pet medical and vaccination records

Pet license and registration information

If you like, you may download a printable version of this index (for personal use only).

Come back tomorrow for the next section: Finances!

Mandy White is blessed to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. She and her amazing husband have three amazing kids. She loves to serve others, and her favorite time of year is fall. Unfortunately, in Arizona, fall doesn’t start until November!

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Organizing Your Important Documents: Introduction (Part 1)

Written by Mandy White

The need for knowing exactly where your important papers are, and having them organized and easy to locate, can’t be overstated. A friend of mine lost her husband to cancer, and said that one of the best things he did for her before passing away was to put together a notebook of all of the papers and accounts she would need.

So, what constitutes an “important document”, anyway? I look it as anything that:

a) Would be a big problem if it were lost, stolen, or destroyed

b) Would be a huge pain-in-the-neck to replace, or is irreplaceable

c) Would need to be found quickly in the event of an emergency

There are many places online to buy ready-made binders or kits for your important documents, but it is actually really simple, and a lot less expensive, to create your own.

Two years ago, for Christmas, I mass-produced these binders for my and my husband’s siblings. I gave ours the name “The Brain Book” because it is everything that’s in my brain that my husband would need to know if something happened to me, or that I simply can’t remember all of the time.

You can name yours whatever you like! So, let’s jump in!

Supplies You’ll Need:

A large, heavy-duty notebook (at least two-inches, though three-inches would be preferable)

A large pack of plastic sheet protectors

Stick-on divider tabs (they will stick onto your sheet protectors and can be written on or have a label inserted)

Paper

Recommended Supplies:

A fire-proof safe (These are exactly the types of documents you want to protect from fire or theft!)

Cardstock (for the section dividers)

A second, smaller notebook (I use a two-inch one) for bulky items

Clear, three-ring zippered pouches to hold bulky items

A large-memory flash-drive, or travel hard drive for backing up your computer

Multi-page sheet protectors (they hold up to 50 pages each) to hold things like Life Insurance policies (I had to order mine off of Amazon.)

A scanner or copy machine (don’t go out and by one if you don’t already have one, but see if a trusted family member or friend has one you might be able to borrow for a day)

A shredder (You can get a small, fairly inexpensive one at Target or Wal-Mart.)

That’s it! Gather your supplies, and we will get started assembling your binders tomorrow.

Mandy White is blessed to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. She and her amazing husband have three amazing kids. She loves to serve others, and her favorite time of year is fall. Unfortunately, in Arizona, fall doesn’t start until November!

Photo source