Does only one spouse or partner handle the family finances?
In a recent Wall Street Journal advice column, a reader asked what to do if you handle all the family finances and your spouse has no desire to get involved?
This is a common household dynamic where one partner always handles certain chores. Studies have shown that duties are often determined by whomever first takes on the responsibility. For example, the first person who pays the electric bill often becomes the one to always pays the electric bill, becoming their unspoken responsibility.
A danger exists when the responsibilities splits along finances. If only one person knows about the accounts, bills, investments, and taxes, and that person becomes incapacitated, the partner now needs take over in the midst of potential tragedy. Imagine if you're the finance and bill owner and you die. You not only leave your partner to handle your death, but also to figure out who the electricity provider is and how to pay the bill.
And it goes beyond just finances. Your partner also needs knowledge about your health, legal, and life documents. For example, who is your doctor, lawyer, and accountant? What about your life insurance, employer (your manager), or subscriptions (like Spotify)? For example, my father gave me a sheet of paper with all his accounts, since my mother doesn't deal with this. I noticed he was missing his credit card and electricity bill, attorney, and doctor information. This isn't information I want to be searching for when I need it most.
How to keep the responsibilities split, but no one in the dark?
Often the other partner doesn't want to be involved since they are handling other responsibilities. At the same time, they still need to be plugged in so they don't lose access to the bank accounts.
So what do you do? The key is the "non-finance" partner knowing what documents, accounts, and bills exist and how to access them. They don't necessarily need intimate knowledge of all the investments and documents, just how to find them. For example, if you have an Advanced Health Care Directive (a legal document stating your medical wishes), you don't want your partner to be ignorant of the document's existence or unable to find it.
Where to store and share your documents and accounts?
If you have physical copies you can either store them at home in a single organized location or, for better security, a safety deposit box at your bank. Be sure your partner knows about and has access to these documents.
On the digital front, you can start with an online shared document storage tool like DropBox or a password management tool like 1Password or LastPass. These services are very secure, but don't give you assistance on which important documents you need or how to gather them. They also are unorganized and make it difficult to give access to your partner.
A Better Solution: Everboxx
A more comprehensive solution is the Everboxx. It gives you a place to securely store your documents and easily share them with your loved ones. The Everboxx also guides you on what are the most important documents to gather, how to create the documents when you don't have them, and organizes everything for easy access.
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