Most of us know the drill, sometimes called “Open Enrollment” or “Benefits Enrollment”. Whatever the name, we get called to a meeting once a year to decide the benefits we choose at our respective places of employment. Try as they may to make it easy for us, it is a daunting decision and we typically pick whatever plan works best (or what we think works best) for us and our decisions are based on our family status, our individual needs (do we need vision coverage, like me? or not, like my better half?) and our cost comfort level. Back in the old days, employers were typically very generous with benefits. It was an easy and relatively cost effective incentive to use as a selling tactic to a potential employee; “with benefits, you are really making $xxx,xxx.xx per year!” Today, it is a different story. For example, 3M (the 10th largest employer in Minnesota according to Twin Cities Business in 2009) has made changes to its benefits plan for retirees. It used to be that we could count on our pensions and our benefits to outlive us and that gave many (including my parents who benefitted from the Railroad Retirement benefits) a great deal of comfort. Now, we will have to make more decisions long term and they will most likely become more complicated as we get older. Our needs change, our incomes change, our familial status’s change. It is important to get into the habit of managing a couple of year end chores that are usually a pain, but will help our lives tremendously. I use a “bring forward” monthly reminder file and each December, I update the following, you may find the tasks helpful for you and your survivors after your death:
- Obtain your credit report and check for inaccuracies. You can obtain these from the three agencies once per year at no cost at AnnualCreditReport.com. You do not have to pay for these reports and they are notoriously inaccurate. Typically, instructions on how to correct errors are at the credit agencies websites.
- Check all your policies that provide benefits to beneficiaries. I have a friend whose father died and he had an ex-wife (who had died ten years prior to his death) as a beneficiary. It was a nightmare to “fix” and took years of wrangling with the policy holder to obtain benefits to the rightful (alive) family member.
- Update my “IMPORTANT-in case of accident” excel spreadsheet. In case I get hit by a bus, I have an excel spreadsheet with a listing of every account I have from utility and monthly bills to my facebook page with the following data for my better half upon my demise (keep secure since it has passwords in it):
- User Name
- Purpose (whether it is personal or business related)
- Pin Number (or additional password)
- Security Code (on back of credit cards)
- Account Number
- Date account was opened
- Date account was closed/cancelled (important at times)
Do yourself a favor and your survivors a bigger favor, I know, they can’t thank you in person, but you have no idea how much easier it will be for them if you handle these few items once a year to stay updated. It will continue to be easier for you as well, and our lives will likely be much longer than our parents were.