Last week, we touched upon very basic starting points for getting your digital assets (digital documents, photos, video and audio files) in order, mainly offline. However, your online assets matter just as much.
You may think it isn’t that important to have your online life organized, but having a well organized list of your online accounts is also a helpful addition to your estate plan, so your beneficiaries can access whatever they need in the event of your passing or impairment.
If you’re like most of us, you probably have thirty-five billion online accounts and associated passwords. Maybe you’re next-level and have two-step authentication on many of them, which can complicate things further by needing to remember what kind of two-step authentication you chose - questions or code.
If you’ve been lost in your own online stuff and have had to reset your password more times than you’d like to admit, now’s the time to overhaul and organize your online life!
Here are 3 tried and true tips about online organization.
Step 1: Make a List
How do you remember what accounts you have?
Do you have bookmark folders on your browser bar? Do you use a password manager like the one in your browser (check out why you should probably not use your browser to save passwords), or another such as LastPass, 1Password or Dashlane? Do you have a spreadsheet or document tracking them? Or, how about a good old piece of paper?
Regardless of which method you use, or a combination of methods, keeping your list current and thorough is the key.
If you’re not sure whether you have tracked every account, go to the source - the email address that you use to sign up for things (or, addresses if you use multiple).
Why? You’ll always have a registration confirmation email from whatever company/service you signed up with at the onset. It’s the beginning of your online relationship with them and a simple way to confirm your accounts existence.
If you find something you haven’t used in a while, or if there’s a password you forgot, now is the time to reset it so you can add it to the list you’re building.
It may seem like a simple task, but again, you may have dozens, if not hundreds, of accounts. Make a list of every one - every email address, every bank account, every social media account, every app, every shopping, educational or financial account. Track it all and test your password to make sure it’s up to date.
Bonus tip: If you haven’t already, consider sorting your email folders for each service and create smart rules for sorting emails that come in from the applicable sender. That will make remembering if you’ve changed your password with them very easy, since they’ll always send an email confirming those changes, too.
Step 2: Sort By Importance
It’s time to divide and conquer now. Sort your list by importance. Your financial and business accounts, for example, are probably far more valuable to you and your family than your personal social media accounts. Why bother doing this, you may think.
Truth is, you may not want to bequeath access to every account you own in your estate plan, so sorting the vital ones out right now will make it easy for you to share the information with your financial planner, lawyer, accountant and any other interested party.
Whilst you sort, now’s the time to ask yourself if you’d like to use different email addresses for different types of accounts.
For example, you may have a personal email you use just for correspondence and social accounts. You may want to create another email that’s just for financial or educational accounts, and another for shopping accounts, especially ones that involve contacting strangers.
Additionally, if you don’t want to get marketing or newsletters to your personal email, you can make a “throwaway” email address to sign up for things of interest, but without bombarding your more important email address.
Depending on how you’re tracking your accounts, place each one into the category it belongs. Password managers will do this for you in a general sense, but you can usually create custom folders as well.
Finally, consider purging anything you haven’t used in a long time or can’t see yourself using again. If you signed up for Instagram, for example, but never use it, remove the app and close your account. There’s no need to have services you don’t use sending you emails.
Bonus tip: It’s also a good time to opt-out of any marketing or promotional emails that tempt you to steer away from your financial goals!
Step 3: Protect Your Passwords!
And last, but certainly not least - don’t use the same password for every account. If it’s hard to remember dozens of different passwords, at the very least use a variation of a similar password.
If that’s still intimidating, you can use a password manager that can generate strong passwords (check out these 9 rules to make strong passwords) and store them for you.
If that isn’t appealing either, you can also write your passwords down on paper and keep them in a secure location. Just don’t label the file something obvious, like “MY PASSWORDS”, keep the paper securely locked up and out of sight and limit the amount of people who know where it is as best as possible.
Once complete, don’t forget to share any relevant information you just sorted with your trusted estate professionals.
Have questions about how your digital life fits into your financial plan? Give us a call today!