This year, I have made only one New Year's resolution and I'm on my way to accomplishing it. I'm going into the next decade preparing for my last decade. That's why I'm spending my last few days before returning to work doing all those things I've been putting off. I guess there's something about spending a few days with aging parents that renews a sense of "I gotta get on the stick," as my daddy would say. So I'm sharing with you here what's going on at my house in case it inspires you to take some needed action as well. Here's what I'm doing:
> Gathering up all the insurance policies I have so I can consolidate them in one place to ensure that every appropriate claim is filed and benefits paid out to heirs. It's a little surprising to realize just how much paperwork there is and how many policies we've accumulated over the years. Thankfully, we can use (for free) www.WeRemember.org. I wrote about this fabulous site in September. It allows you to have one central place to identify all your important papers, including insurance policies, wills, etc. Your heirs - or anyone you share the information with - can find everything they need to make appropriate claims upon your death. After independently verifying your death, www.WeRemember.org actually notifies the right people that there are policies that need to be acted upon. You can make changes, adding and subtracting information any time. For a small fee, you can even upgrade to a version that actually sends your beneficiaries the necessary claims forms. The older I get, the more responsible I feel for ensuring my death is as little a burden as necessary. (BTW, in the process of gathering all this information, I suddenly realized I didn't own a long-term care policy. So I bought one while the premiums are reasonable and my health is relatively good.)
> Taking inventory of my house to ensure I know exactly what I have, placing a value on it, and keeping good records just in case there is a fire or some other disaster that suddenly wipes away our belongings and our accurate memory of what was lost. (OK, I confess, I got a new digital camera for Christmas and this also seemed like a good way to learn how to use it. Why not kill two birds with one stone, so to speak?) I am doing each room at a time and for those items that have a particularly interesting story behind them, or that I want to make sure go to certain people, I'm recording that too. There are several great software packages to assist in this task, including My Edge Home Inventory and Contact Plus Home Inventory Software. Perhaps you already use a different kind you can recommend as well?
> Reviewing insurance policies to make sure they've kept up with our specific needs. I also have looked into whether I'm taking advantage of every possible benefit I'm entitled to. For instance, I just learned that my insurer, Cotton States, offers reduced rates to people with excellent credit ratings. In one phone call, my annual bill dropped by $365 by asking the company to review my credit history and give me their absolute best deal. I also bought renters insurance for my college daughter's apartment at considerably less than the rate offered by an online firm that specializes in renters insurance. (Turns out if your kid is still a full time student, you can just get a rider to the home owner's policy.)
This is probably enough to bite off for now, even though I'm certain it's not everything I need to do. To tell you the truth, it's a bit cathartic to go through all this. Even though I expect (and certainly hope) I'll be around a very long time yet, it makes me feel much more in control of my life to know these things are taken care of. What's more, I love knowing the information is secure and not dependent on me to remember to make copies and file them in a bank deposit box somewhere.
So, that's it for me - the new year brings an opportunity to focus on preparation with purpose rather than my usual "hopeful change." Here's hoping your 2010 gets off to a great start too!