My wife got to ride in a single-engine Piper airplane for the first time a couple of days ago, which was exciting for her and scary for me. She even got to fly a little bit. I was surprised she agreed to go since usually I am banned from such “extreme” activities.
This, along with a recent Vanguard article about estate planning, got me thinking. Many of you reading this are the Chief Financial Officers of your households, but would your spouse or partner be able to run things well without you?
It’s funny, right now I don’t feel an urge to buy life insurance (my wife is paid well and does not depend on me for financial support), nor do I feel like I need a will (we are married, so most things would just shift to her naturally), but I do feel like I need to compose some sort of “Financial Will” because currently I take care of most of the finances. In fact, my wife hasn’t paid a single bill since we’ve gotten married! That leaves a lot of instructions to compile…
Where is all the money?
Although she knows where all our major accounts are, I have a lot of smaller accounts. I need to create a list of all financial institutions where I have accounts, what the approximate balances are, as well as a secure system to show her the account numbers as well as usernames/passwords. She already knows where all the bank statements and important legal documents are.
I should also write down all the bills, although this is another reason why I still like receiving paper statements. If a credit card or utility company wants money, she’ll get a letter.
Where do I learn about money?
As for the whole spending less than you earn thing, I think she can handle that just fine. She’s much less familiar with investing, so I would leave her this list of books to start her education. I might change this list later, but I think it offers a decent mix of basic advice and some more slightly advanced concepts.
What if I would prefer professional help?
Let’s say she feels overwhelmed and would prefer to hire a professional. I would encourage her to hire a fee-only advisor who does not work on commissions, and preferably one with a simple passive investment philosophy. I would tell her specifically to avoid names like Merrill Lynch, Ameriprise, and Edward Jones. (There are fine employees at these companies, but the conflicts of interest that exist greatly decrease the chances at finding one at random.)
Although I’ve never met with any of these firms, based on my limited knowledge of their philosophies and reputations, I would give them a shot:
However, these advisors can be very expensive for smaller portfolios, so I would definitely prefer for her learn on her own first. Maybe I would suggest a simple Vanguard Target Retirement fund as an auto-pilot option in the meantime.
How do I keep any passive income flowing in?
Some people may have rental properties, or royalty income, or some other sort of settlement income to preserve. For me, if I die then my day job and freelance income will stop, but this website has the potential to keep earning advertising money for many additional months if not years. I would need a brief manual on how to keep this site up and running (pay the hosting bill!) and who to call if something breaks. Also I would need a list of important contacts to maintain relationships with.
Of course, I would also tell her to read the contents of this site and other sites I link to for more support and advice!
I would also write down a trusted accountant and lawyer, although we already have those within the family. Hmm… anything else?
By Jonathan Ping | Family | 5/8/08, 6:36am