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!

Finances: Insurance and Preparedness

This is part three of a series that falls more into the organizing your life for the future, not really the usual organizing the physical. But it’s something that I’m very passionate about and want to make all of you guys aware of the importance of being prepared.


Insurance chart: health, life, home, injury, property

It’s weird and it sucks to think about death. But being prepared is much preferred to being surprised by any tragedy. As you guys know, I work in the legal field, so I am obligated to mention that you have to have a will and powers of attorney, both for property and healthcare. HAVE TO, HAVE TO, HAVE TO. Rant over. Let’s just talk about the big picture, long term insurances: house insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance.

I had been getting two policies on my condo that I rent out: a homeowner’s insurance bill in January and a renter’s insurance bill in late June. When I got this most recent one, I sent an email to my insurance guy and asked him to clarify why I have homeowner’s insurance and renter’s insurance. Within 5 minutes of the initial email, he said that the homeowner’s policy should have been closed out and I’ve been paying for two years unnecessarily. Luckily, he spoke with underwriters and they sent me a full refund for all of the money I paid on that account. That is hundreds of dollars saved with a quick email to my company (and who knows how much more I would have paid in the future!).

Your job or spouse’s job may offer life insurance or disability insurance. Talk to HR and take a look at the deductions on your pay stubs. My job offers standard life insurance with an election for more and disability, sometimes not until you’ve been working for X amount of time. After getting pregnant, we knew that we needed more life insurance. So we met with a financial adviser (more on that in another post), who encouraged us to get additional disability insurance on the husband since he is the main money maker. You may or may not need more than what your job offers. But keep it in mind as an option, especially for the breadwinner in the house.

You never know what life will throw at you. You need to be prepared for anything! Contact me today if you need help getting prepared for anything!

Finances: Retirement

This is part 2 of a series regarding your finances. It falls more into the organizing your life for the future, not really the usual organizing the physical objects here now. But it’s something that I’m very passionate about and want to make all of you guys aware of the importance of being prepared.

TL;DR: Put any little bit you can into retirement NOW, especially if you have employer matching. Listen guys, I am not a financial planner and I can’t pretend to be. Do some Googling or ask some friends for financial planner recommendations.


If you’re like me, it’s very hard to visualize the long term future. I’ve only been working for about dozen years and am decades away from retirement. I have a small child and have only been married a handful of years. But, as I’ve learned, the time goes quickly. And starting right now is essential.

Benefits of starting early. $3k for the first 10 years (then nothing) gives $218k, while nothing for 10 years and $3k for the next 20 gives $148k

Over the course of a life, the early starter above made $3,000 contributions for just the first 10 years and then stopped (for a total of $30k) vs. the procrastinator who did nothing for the first 10 years, then paid for 20 years (for a total of $60k). The early bird has almost 150% more money for half the investment. Compounding interest is a huge deal. You can get so much money over decades if you start right now. I know it’s hard to find room in the budget.

There is a maximum amount you can contribute to your retirement funds, set by law each year. Recently, it has been $5,500 for both traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Personally, I’m not able to save that much from my paycheck. However, anytime I get a raise, I go in and try to up the contribution amount to cover the raise so I won’t be tempted to spend it somewhere else.

If your company offers matching, please please please try to put some money into that retirement account! It’s literally free money! If I guaranteed you $2,000 next week if you gave me $1,000 this week, I bet you’d find room in the budget for that. When you don’t contribute to a matching retirement fund, you are missing out on free money.

One more quick note: check your beneficiaries on these accounts, especially if you’ve gotten married or divorced since the accounts were opened. Many accounts do not care what is in your will; it depends who the beneficiary is listed on there. If you have no beneficiary named, it will likely go to your next of kin, or in accordance with your will. But if you listed your spouse who is now your ex-spouse, they could get all of it. Just a warning!

If you’ve got some older kids who are approaching college, here are a two quick things of note I’ve come across time and time again. If you’re a parent, do not dip into retirement funds to pay for college. You won’t be able to get loans for retirement, but you can for college. Second, FASFA says that retirement savings are not counted as an asset when you are doing your student loan applications. To get more aid, move your reportable assets to nonreportable.

Retirement may seem like it’s light years away from where you are now, but it will come up so quickly and you need to be prepared! If you have any questions, please contact a local financial adviser. I promise, they are not intimidating at all and would love to help you out!

If you need help organizing your finances, contact me today.

Finances: Day 1

This is part one of a series that falls more into the organizing your life for the future, not really the usual organizing the physical. But it’s something that I’m very passionate about and want to make all of you guys aware of the importance of being prepared.

Money background with a big question mark

Talking about finances is never a great subject, especially when it feels like no matter what you do, you’re always in the same place. No matter how many raises you get, the debt doesn’t decrease and the savings never increases. Student loans seem insurmountable.

There are so many different tips, tricks, techniques, hacks that claim to help. It can be absolutely overwhelming when you look at the THOUSANDS of posts and pins that describe what you can do to solve it. But…just like organizing your house, getting your finances in order is the same way: it needs to be personalized to what works for you and your family. So I can’t offer the best financial organizing tip to everyone out there. What is perfect for me may be the worst idea for you!

For me, I’ve found that I am not enough of an adult to use a credit card correctly. I loved getting the cash back and the points adding up. But it didn’t work for me. I’ve found that I tend to ignore how much money I’m spending when I don’t see it disappear every day. I struggled with it for years. It works for my husband, my mom, and potentially for you, but not for me. I need to see exactly where I stand. I get daily emails at 4:30 am from my bank, showing what exactly went into and out of my account the day before. On Mondays, when all of the weekend stuff pops in, I know exactly how much I have left for the remainder of the week until Friday’s payday.

Side note: I originally typed the sentence above as “how much I have left to spend for the remainder of the week, “showing a perfect example of  how NOT to think about money. Which leads me to my final thought on the subject:

The best thing I’ve found for me is to pay yourself first. I get paid every other Friday and I set up automatic transfers of money that day from my checking to my savings accounts, the kid’s savings account, and college funds on those days. My retirement funds are automatic from my paycheck. If I were really good, I would set it up so I can’t access my savings account so easily on my bank app. But I’m not that good. Maybe one day.

If you need help taking that first step in getting your finances organized, contact me.