Get Ready: Here’s How and Why to Get Financially Organized Because of Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Over the last few days, for many us, our lives have been completely changed. My family is under a shelter in place order which includes our son participating in online education. We can only leave for essential needs and the occasional walk provided we remain six feet away from those who we do not reside with. It is unclear how long these restrictions will remain in place. Each day, more of us are living under similar restrictions.  So, what can we do to be financially prepared during this time?

In the words of Jerry Garcia: “Live life expecting the worst, hoping for the best, and living for the future!” While this may mean different things to each of us, it does imply the importance of planning. In this post, I’ll cover financial information that you should have. In a follow-up post, I’ll cover how to use the financial information that you’ve collected, so that you can take steps to ensure that you are able to monitor your financial life and if necessary, make changes to reduce your expenses.

Gathering your information is important for you and for your family. During this time, you may need to have all of your information in place in the event that you have a change in job status, decide to refinance or have an illness or unfortunately, a death of a loved one. Following is a starting point for documenting your financial life. After each item, there is a reference to the applicable worksheet from Get Ready.

You can access each of these worksheets as a downloadable, fillable PDF when you join the Get Ready Financial Preparedness Club. There is no charge, so please join (here). The Get Ready e-book version will continue to be available for $2.99 for as long as the state of emergency continues - pick up your Amazon Kindle copy of Get Ready (here).  I’ll also be giving away both paperback and kindle editions of Get Ready starting in the next few days. 

Here is the list of information that you should gather, in the order that that area is covered in Get Ready. The more information that you can add, the more useful, the worksheets will be. Gathering this information will take time, so try to do one or two worksheets a day. Members of the Get Ready Financial Preparedness Club can access them from their member dashboard (here). 

  • Emergency contacts. Make a list of all your important contacts, including family, friends, neighbors, medical providers, and advisors. 
  • Personal papers and legal documents. You’ll also want to compile your important documents and identification, including medical information (e.g., immunization records), passports (originals or copies), drivers’ licenses, birth and marriage certificates, adoption decrees, Social Security cards, military records, insurance policies, and paperwork for pets. This vital information will enable you to access your financial accounts and property, obtain disaster relief, file insurance claims, and receive appropriate medical services. 
  • Critical emergency action list. You’ll create a list of critical steps to take in the event of an emergency, including an evacuation. 
  • Contents of wallet. You will list everything you carry in your wallet in the event that it is lost or stolen. 
  • Storing documents and valuables. You’ll create an inventory of items kept in your personal safe, safe-deposit box, and storage unit along with details on how to access them. 
  • Personal information. In this section, you’ll add all of your background information. 
  • Children and grandchildren. You’ll add important information about your children and grandchildren. 
  • Health (medical) information. Here’s where you can keep track of your medical history, treatments, and medications. 
  • Pet information. You’ll add details regarding these members of your household: dates of birth, dates and proof of vaccination, names of vets, and so on.
  • Digital Life (Devices and Services). You’ll enter details of which devices you use and how to unlock them. You’ll also start a list of websites and add log-in credentials (user names and passwords.  
  • Financial account information. In these worksheets for bank accounts, investment accounts and more, you’ll enter the name of the financial institution/company, account number, website, and log-in/access credentials. 
  • Debts, loans, living expenses and taxes. Complete worksheets for your loans, living expenses, subscriptions and services. Be sure sure to include the company name, account number, due date of payments, website and log-in credentials. It’s also important to note how you receive invoices (mail, email or other).
  • Insurance policies. This set of worksheets helps you to compile information on all of your insurance coverage including auto insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, life insurance and long term care insurance. Be sure to record name of the insurance company, policy/certificate number, location of policy/certificate and when premiums are due along with how you receive premium notices.
  • Estate planning. Here’s where you can record information about your health care directives, powers of attorney, final wishes, wills and trusts. Be sure to review beneficiary designations on all applicable accounts.

Medications: 

Have your medications ready - be sure to order refills ahead of time & through the mail if possible. Take an inventory of your medications (using the Get Ready Worksheet for medications) you can also take pictures of each prescription container’s label and store in your cloud or in Get Ready binder

Health Care Power of Attorney/Advanced Health Care Directive: 

Health care power of attorney/advanced directive is ready. A number of medical entities such as Kaiser have own advanced directive form that you can access for free. If you have a child in college, be sure to have them complete a health care power of attorney so that you can manage their care. Your state may also provide a power of attorney form that you can access for free, for example California has such a form (here). If you Google “Health Care Power of Attorney”, you’ll come up with a number of results, however, you’ll need to choose wisely and consider the entity that’s offering the service. If you have an attorney, they can assist you. 

Power of attorney: In the event you are unable to manage your financial affairs if you become severely ill.

Communicate:

Communicate with your loved ones where they can find information and what your wishes are. Have a virtual family financial meeting. Provide keys and alarms codes so that your loved ones can access your home (and office). 

Know what to do in the event you have to step in for a loved one: 

In the event that you have to step in for someone else in the event of a death or serious illness, you can download the “Stepping In” worksheet which includes all of the steps that you might need to take.

Taxes: 

The U.S. Treasury has moved the deadline to pay additional income taxes for Individuals and businesses to Tuesday, July 14, 2020. It’s important to note that you still must file your income tax return by April 15, 2020. Keep in mind that this applies only to Federal Taxes.  The American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants is keeping a running record of state-to-state changes (here). For more information, check out the press release from the U.S. Department of the Treasury: Treasury and IRS Issue Guidance on Deferring Tax Payments Due to COVID-19 Outbreak.

Paying Bills: 

Many entities are offering options to help people facing financial hardship during this time: If you haven’t received information from an entity yet, you should contact them and ask about special programs related to Covid-19. This is important as events are moving quickly and companies may not have had time to fully communicate options on late payments, waive late fees or spread out payments. The next edition of Get Ready will focus on this area and include resources. 

Reliable Information: 

Make sure that you are getting good information so that you can be fully informed and best protect yourself and your family:

Here are some recommended Covid-19 News Sources:

  • Harvard Medical School: Coronavirus resource center - useful and applicable information (much more than just washing hands) - (here)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - (here)
  • Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security - sign up for situation reports (here)
  • World Health Organization (WHO): Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (here)
  • Coronavirus top questions from CNN (here) - this is a thorough article

Note: This is not a complete list. 

Be financially aware:

Unfortunately scammers look for opportunities when we are most vulnerable. Here are some tips to protect yourself: 

  • Protect your devices and personal information. Here’s Online security tips for working from home including cybersecurity basics (passwords and security software), securing your home network and physical file security,
  • Spam email. Judging from my email, there is an abundance of junk email touting all sorts of Covid-19 health and financial relief.  Before responding, do a quick google search for the recommended product and if it’s related to a financial account, go directly to the financial service company website rather than following a link in an email. Better safe than sorry.
  • Robocalls. YouMail, the call-screening app, reports a surge in robocall messages related to highly dubious products and services dealing with the current pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which has dominated the news cycle over the last month. See: Surge in robocalls push assorted coronavirus scams. 

The Federal Trade Commission has tips to protect yourself from possible coronavirus-related scams . The FTC and the Food and Drug Administration have also cautioned consumers to be on the look-out for sellers of unapproved and misbranded products , claiming they can treat or prevent coronavirus. Learn more about how to prevent, recognize, and report fraud and scams.

Humor: 

As they say, laughter can be the best medicine. Check out these links if you need a laugh: 

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