“The Financial Junk Drawer: Why Ignoring It Is Risky Business”

We are all creatures of habit. We eat the same things, go to the same places, and get ready for the day in the same way almost every morning. In many ways, these habits help us get things handled, and that’s a good thing, but sometimes, our way of handling certain things isn’t ideal.

For example, nearly everyone I know has someplace where they stash stuff that doesn’t really have a ‘place.’ It might be a closet in an extra bedroom or some sort of junk drawer, but whatever it is, it becomes the place/home for all the stuff we don’t want (or know how) to deal with.

Here’s the problem…

Although “junk drawers” aren’t bad, the stuff that gets put in them almost never gets truly figured out at a higher level, or in the case of having extra keys, rubber bands, or chip clips, that isn’t a big deal.

However, I’ve found that most people put their financial statements, bank accounts, tax returns, etc. in a drawer, lying horizonal. The stuff in this drawer is flat. Piles up and becomes a ‘junk drawer’ because they think they have it “handled”. They believe they have it taken care of it because their tax preparer or accountant has got this all organized and it is out of our site. This is dangerous because we don’t look at it often, and if we were to open the drawer, we only see many hours of work trying to get caught up on our organization. So, . . . . . . . . . we close the drawer and say to ourselves I will come back to this later. Of course we keep adding to this drawer.

STEP ONE: If you agree, or don’t agree with me, take a tour. Starting with clothes in your closet count the articles of clothing you will never wear again; Move to any junk drawer and examine it; Then go into your garage and see what you should have cleaned out a long time ago; Next, open the trunk to your car; And finally don’t bother driving to your storage unit you pay a monthly fee for, just make a mental note.

STEP TWO: After this tour, if you conclude I am on the right track, then separate all your important financial items into piles. Anything legal put in one pile, insurance another, wills and trusts in a different one. Investments and a list of assets go into its own pile. Place tax records in yet another pile. BE FLEXIBILE: If your piles are of a digital nature, leave them that way. HELPFUL: If any document seems to belong in two or more piles, just duplicate and put it in any other pile you feel it belongs.

STEP THREE: Now set out to find a true professional for each important pile and set appointments to meet and review. An easy way that I found to do this is copy any document that is formal in nature. Wills/Trusts and insurance policies are example. When you meet with the professional, use a red-ink pen so it is easy to see what you wrote. Take notes with the direction you were given on the copy you made and not the original. At any time in the future, you can review the ‘red-lined’ document and be reminded of why you took that note and any action suggested.