If I asked you to tell me right this second to list out everything that was in your wallet, could you do it without looking? Many of us put a lot of our life into our wallets, purses and vehicles, and we don’t think twice about the need to access that information should it suddenly disappear. Here are some tips to help you prevent a financial disaster if your wallet, purse or car was stolen:
Take an Inventory
Make it a habit of cleaning out your wallet, purse and car on a monthly basis. Go through the receipts that are stuffed into those handy pockets and either file them away or shred them. Decide what is necessary to have in those areas, and eliminate everything else – either by relocating it to another place (like inside your home) or get rid of it. This goes for other items as well. The goal is to create a clutter free area where you can easily find and recall the important elements.
Minimize and Photocopy
Pretend like you are leaving on a dream vacation to Europe. Would you take every single thing that is currently in your wallet and/or purse? My advice to you is to take as little as you can. Tourists attract all kinds of attention, especially by pickpockets. Consider utilizing travelers checks instead of cash, and only take one major credit card. For everyday use (when not traveling) you don’t need to have your wallet stocked with every credit card you own. Most store cards will allow you to look up your account number at the register if you need to make a purchase. The same goes for checkbooks. Most retailers take and prefer debit cards over checks, which are easier to carry, and can be tracked and payments stopped easier than checks.
Once you’ve pared down your items, take a photocopy of everything and store it in a safe place (and not in your wallet or purse). I even store the toll free number to VISA in my phone for such emergencies. By making a photocopy of your important items, you can more easily shut down credit cards, and get new identification issued.
Have the Talk
Many households have one person who handles all the finances. This person may be you, your spouse / partner or roommate. Whatever the case, have regular conversations about the “what ifs.” This means sharing how to access bank accounts, pay bills, and where important documents are located (like insurance policies, Wills, etc.). If you are single, consider creating a Power of Attorney where someone you trust can handle your finances should you become incapacitated. In my former career as an insurance agent for a mortuary, I worked with families who had to dig through filing cabinets, basements, and more to try to find documents pertaining to the deceased’s estate. Even if these documents were found, access to claim benefits was also a struggle if the deceased hadn’t made proper provisions. My hardest conversations were with surviving family members whose hands were tied financially.