Socially distancing yourself at home means that whether you like it or not, you have a lot more time on your hands. While it’s a good chance to get caught up on your favourite Netflix shows, it’s also the perfect opportunity to tackle some of the personal finance tasks that have inevitably been on your list for a while.
You might be surprised at how many things you can accomplish from your couch. Here are six tasks you can complete online while at home.
Get life insurance
If you have kids, a spouse or anyone that depends on you financially, it’s a good idea to have life insurance in place. If anything were to happen to you, having a life insurance policy will provide your loved ones with a financial safety net to replace your lost income and maintain their lifestyle. With online life insurance tools like PolicyAdvisor and PolicyMe, it only takes a few minutes to get a quote and finalize a policy, and you don’t have to leave your home.
Finish your will
If you haven’t gotten around to making your will, or you have one but it needs updating, it’s a good time to cross it off your to-do list. If you have a simple situation (kids, pets, property, assets in Canada), you can save yourself a visit to a lawyer’s office and make your will at home using an online platform like Willful (note that the law requires that you print and sign your will to make it legally-binding).
Here are some tips on how to maintain your social distance and keep the germs away when completing your will:
- When signing and witnessing your will, you can sign the documents in the same room as your witnesses, but stay at least six feet away from each other and use different pens to sign. Consider using gloves when handling documents.
- Call any key people in your will over the phone and discuss their role (for example, asking a guardian if they would be willing and able to take care of your child).
Reflect on spending patterns and update your budget
Uncertain times like this can come with unexpected expenses. Take this time to work on your personal finance goals, reflect on your spending habits, and update your budget to take into account your new needs. You don’t need to be a finance whiz to do this. Start by downloading a money management app like Wellspent — it allows you to reflect on your transactions to decide if the purchase was worth it and identify spending habits that you want to change. Being able to see exactly where your money is going and where you can cut down on spending will help you make better financial decisions during this time.
Do your taxes
Although it may seem like you still have lots of time to do your taxes since the government has moved the personal tax deadline back to June 1st, getting your taxes done now will give you one less thing to worry about — and the government is recommending filing early if you receive GSTC or the Canada Child Benefit. If you don’t have a complex situation, you can use software tools like SimpleTax to complete your taxes online. And if you do need an accountant’s help to tackle your personal finance decisions, you can start the process via email.
Organize your passwords and level up your security
Organizing your passwords using a password manager like 1Password is a good idea to control access and prevent access to any of your accounts. These tools require you to create a master password, which is the only password you’ll need to remember — after creating that master password, you can add all of your logins and create extremely strong passwords for each of those accounts without having to remember each one. 1Password offers a Chrome extension and mobile app so you can easily log in to any of your accounts securely using only your master password. You can also create shared family vaults, so you know your spouse or trusted family members always have access to important accounts. Additionally, you may want to share your master password with either your executor or a trusted family member so they can access your accounts in the event of an emergency. Just remember to enable two-factor authentication for any accounts that offer this option, and to delete any saved passwords from your mobile device and browser.
Organize your digital and physical folders of important documents
Having a safe place to put your important documents is key. Documents like your will, life insurance policy, medical records, and other key documents should be stored together in a safe spot so you or your executor/Power of Attorney can easily find them in an emergency. You can store these documents in a cloud storage tool, or in a physical folder (or both), just note that in order to be legally valid, only the original physical copy of your will is viable.
It’s also a good idea to prepare a folder of information that includes a list of subscription services, investment accounts, contact details for your accountant, financial planner, or other key professionals, and any other key information. If you were to pass away, having this information clearly outlined will make your executor’s job a lot easier and helps to ensure that your exact wishes are followed.
If you’re working from home like many of us this week, but still want to be productive, try tackling one of these personal finance tasks each day. Keeping busy and maintaining a level of normalcy may even help you feel a little bit less uneasy overall.
Erin Bury is the CEO at willful.co, an estate planning startup that provides an affordable, convenient, and easy way for Canadians create a legal will online for a fraction of the cost of visiting a lawyer.