Retirement checklist: Tips to help you organize and manage your finances

Key Points

  • Locate your assets to determine exactly what you have.
  • Organize account numbers, passwords and related documentation.
  • Share important information with your loved ones.

Knowing where your accounts are, how to access them and what those accounts contain is crucial to smart financial management. When you keep your financial information in one place and up to date, you can help ease stress on yourself, your family or other beneficiaries.

Get organized, for yourself and your loved ones

Maintaining important documents and sharing key information will provide peace of mind should anything unexpected occur. Be sure to periodically walk a spouse, partner, adult child or trusted friend or advisor through legal and financial records, PIN numbers, passwords and other personal information.

Complete the tasks below to get started.

File and protect important documents
 
  •   Designate a binder to hold all bills and paper statements.
  •   Keep legal documents, tax information, and permanent records in a fire-safe box in your home, or in a safety deposit box.

Go paperless

  •    Register for online account access.
  •    Create a consolidated source of information.

Automate when possible

  •    Sign up for automatic deposits, including paychecks, Social Security and tax refunds.

Catalog accounts and key documents

  •   Keep track of what’s in your safety deposit box, and share it with trusted family members and friends.
  •   Include a list of account numbers, descriptions, passwords and PINs in your safe deposit box.

Plan ahead

  •    Designate a power of attorney and consider a living will or health care directive.
  •    Write down contact information for your attorney, financial advisor and accountant and share this information with your heirs.
  •    Provide your most trusted loved ones and/or advisor with the combination to your home safe or access to a safety deposit box.

Download printable checklist

Identify all open accounts

If you haven't been keeping track of your retirement and other financial accounts, it may seem daunting to get organized. But a few simple steps can make it manageable:

  • Register for online access to your accounts.It’s a good idea to do this for all of your financial accounts so that you can easily retrieve the information you need.
  • Make a list of former employers. If you think you may have a forgotten account, get the phone number from your former employer's website and call the HR or Benefits department. They should have records to help you locate the account.
  • Gather your tax paperwork from previous years. You may have evidence of an account you rolled over or a contribution you deducted.
  • Confirm accounts for your household. If you are married or have a partner, this is an ideal time for you to get organized together.

Once you have gathered the information you need, list the accounts, their location, current value and access information. Share the list with your spouse or partner, and then store it in a safety deposit box or home safe.

To simplify the ongoing management of these assets, you should also consider consolidating your accounts. Your financial advisor will be able to help you review your accounts and take an overall look at your finances.

Update your beneficiaries

Each of your retirement accounts will pass to the beneficiary(ies) listed (or according to your plan's default beneficiary if you do not list a beneficiary), regardless of what you stated in your will or trust. So it's critical to review your beneficiaries regularly, especially after a marriage, divorce, birth or death of a loved one.

As you review your beneficiaries, keep these tips in mind:

  • Designate a contingent (or secondary) beneficiary in case something happens to your primary beneficiary.
  • Name a new beneficiary if a primary beneficiary (such as a parent) dies.
  • Remember to remove an ex-spouse after a divorce or new marriage.
  • Update your beneficiaries after the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Get guidance from an estate planning attorney before naming an estate as your beneficiary.
  • Complete a separate beneficiary form for each plan.

This is also a good time to update other documents, such as:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Financial and medical powers of attorney
  • Real estate titles
  • Business ownership agreements

Keeping your beneficiary designations and legal documents up to date can help ensure a smooth transition of your assets to your heirs.

Decide what to keep and what to destroy

While it's smart to keep permanent documents in a fire-proof and water-proof safe or safety deposit box, there are certain items that you can get rid of over time. Be sure to shred all discarded documents first, to keep them out of the hands of identity thieves.

How long you should keep various records, and what you can get rid of, depends on the information. For those records you keep, make sure you tell your family and other beneficiaries how to access your safe or safety deposit box if they ever need to.

Keep indefinitely Keep for 7 years Keep for 1 year Keep for a month or less
Legal and permanent records Tax-related records, such as W2s Paycheck stubs ATM and bank deposit slips (for transactions that can be confirmed online or through a consolidated statement)
Will or trust document Receipts for tax-deductible purchases Credit card statements Receipts for non-deductible purchases, unless you are holding them for possible returns or warranty-related repairs
Birth and marriage certificates Cancelled checks Bills such as rent, cable and electricity  
Insurance policies Retirement account contributions Account statements  
Deeds Charitable donations    
  Large out-of-pocket medical expenses    
  Mortgage payments    

For additional assistance organizing and consolidating your finances, contact an Ameriprise financial advisor.