October 2007 Archives

October 1, 2007

Do You Know What You (and Your Spouse) Own?

Many of us accumulate various bank accounts, retirement plans, and insurance policies over the years. And we may not tell our spouses or partners about all of these assets--not because we're hiding them, but because we just don't get around to it. Does your spouse know whether or not you get life insurance as a job benefit? If you happened to see an ad for an online bank and opened a small savings account just for a rainy day, would your spouse know where to find the account number?

Many couples don't know their full financial picture. Especially if your spouse takes primary responsibility for paying the bills, handling savings and investments, or both, chances are good that you don't know everything you should about the family's finances. Women who defer to their husbands on financial matters are particularly vulnerable to being left without enough information should their spouse become ill or die unexpectedly.

Remedy the situation. Luckily, it's simple to remedy. Sit down together and make a simple list of your financial assets. Record savings accounts, retirement plan accounts, checking accounts, insurance and annuity policies, brokerage accounts, and any other stock or bond holdings. Put down not only what each is worth, approximately, but also where the paperwork (quarterly statements, insurance policies, and so on) is kept.

Get important documents together. While you're at it, it's a good idea to put your hands on other important documents, such as your will or living trust, living will, and powers of attorney. Think how organized you'll feel! For step-by-step organizing help, check out Get It Together, by Melanie Cullen (Nolo).