Finances: ICE binder

White binder labeled "Emergency binder" with a red cross on it

I’ve found that most families have one person who takes the lead on all the financial stuff. I tend to enjoy it more because, duh, organizing! When I was pregnant, we met with a financial adviser to think about some additional life insurance. Both of our jobs offer some, but it would not be enough if the worst happened. And we wanted to ensure we’re setting ourselves up correctly for retirement and for college.

I tried to make a list of our retirement accounts, insurances, etc, before meeting with him, thinking that I have it pretty together and WOW! I did not have it together. We got married in our 30s, so we were pretty established before then. We both have separate bank accounts from different banks and home/car insurances through different companies. I had to ask my husband a ton of questions about what account is this and which one is rolled over and which ones are we contributing to currently. It took a few hours to sort it all out.

I did eventually get things a lot more organized and everything is complied in one drawer in our filing cabinet. Pretty good, right? But then, I found one more thing to do: an in case of emergency (ICE) binder. I first saw this on Pinterest here and loved the idea! Tshanina includes a lot more detail in her binder, but I’ve modified mine because I like having my hanging file folders for each account. I keep the binder in my filing cabinet and told my husband and mom where it is, just in case.

My tiny binder, which is actually just a small black binder with a sticker on the spine, consists of just a few pages. I put some clear sheet protectors in there for an extra layer of protection, in case a small child decides to find it and rip out some pages.

List of docs in binder: copies of wills, property POAs, marriage licence, birth certificate, list of stuff in safety deposit box, income and expenses list, financial accounts list

The list of items in safety deposit box also includes the key, location, and box number. The income and expenses was pretty easy because I pulled it from our recent budget. In addition to the budget items like how much each item is and how often it’s paid, I made separate columns for if it’s automatic or a check, and which account it goes to/comes from.

The list of all financial accounts included a TON of stuff: checking, savings, credit cards, retirement accounts, pension info, life insurance, disability, college fund, reimbursement accounts, car info (VIN, policy numbers, insurance, title location) and home info (policies, mortgages, insurance). I had a good jump on a lot of this stuff when we met with the adviser, but it was nice to get it all in one spreadsheet. It was 2 pages long!

One of my favorite parts is how easy the upkeep will be. Most of the sections will rarely change, if ever. The other sections will require just a yearly check to ensure everything is still up to date.

The peace of mind knowing that I’ve done everything I can to ensure everything is in order is somehow even better. If you need help assembling your ICE binder, contact me today!

2 thoughts on “Finances: ICE binder

  1. Jessica F

    This is such a great post! I got really interested in the health decisions aspect of this recently, and I have a document on file with my doctor about who makes decisions for me – but that is just one of several really important things you put on the list. I’m going to start working on the others.

    One thing I’m super glad I set up is a password manager. A) it makes it easy to have unique, *hard* passwords for everything, and B) I realize that if something happened to me, all I have to do is leave the master password in something like an ICE file and then my loved ones could access all my financial, email, and social media accounts to deal with them as needed.

    1. Organizing CU Post author

      Having everything in one place, including passwords, is so important! The password manager master password I use is ridiculously complicated, but after a few uses, I got used to it. The peace of mind of having all my banking and social media passwords safe is well worth it!


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