Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Getting Organized in the 21st Century

With the ever-increasing proliferation of web-based services, a large hole in many financial plans is growing larger.

You may have prepared a comprehensive list of all of your financial relationships and related contact information: accountant/tax preparer, bank/s, legal document location/s, mortgage holder, credit cards, financial advisor/s, attorney, safe deposit box location (and key!), etc. (Here’s your chance to say “Why, yes I have!”…)

This list should be kept up to date and copies kept in more than one location. (Here’s your first chance to say “Why, yes I will!”…)

But, you may not have included the “keys” to your web-based relationships on this list: those important website addresses (banking, bill-paying, e-mail, shopping) with your login ids and passwords.

Virtually all web-based relationships are governed by a legal document you agreed to when you first established the relationship, the Terms Of Service Agreement (TOSA). Like me, when presented with a “check here if you agree to our terms” check box, you probably checked “yes” and didn’t think about it.

Time to think again.

TOSAs commonly contain “use” clauses and privacy clauses. The use clauses often state that your account access – like an e-mail account – will be terminated and all data wiped out if you don’t use the service for a stipulated time period, sometimes as short as 30 days. The privacy clause prevents the service provider from giving anyone else access to the service – they will not give anyone else your login and password. These are good things, but what happens when someone dies or becomes unable to communicate (a stroke) and their family can’t find their login and password? Short of a court order – at the family’s expense – they are out of luck.

Here’s another one: do you protect your home computer with a password? If no one else knows it, your family may not be able to access it if you die or become unable to communicate. What if your list of important items is on your password-protected computer?

Your vital documents should contain a list of all of your on-line account relationships with their related login ids and passwords. Of course, this list needs to be kept up to date.

It goes without saying, but don’t keep the sole copy of this list on-line!

Here's a link to what looks like a great organizer for just this purpose: (currently in development - enter your contact info and they'll let you know when it's available).


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