Clark Howard’s 5-Point Annual Checklist You Should Follow

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Medical doctors typically advise that we do a physical examination – an annual checkup – once a year. Money expert Clark Howard recommends that you do a financial checkup once a year as well to make sure you have everything in place in case the worst happens.

In this article, I’ll outline some easy ways to prepare your finances to take care of your loved ones in case you’re not around to do it.

Money expert Clark Howard recently shared his yearly process of making sure his family is financially secure when he’s gone. It can be a touchy subject, but Clark says having the conversation every year is worth it.

Use This Financial Checklist To Plan for the Inevitable

“In the realm of the unromantic, I use our anniversary each year as the time when I update all the information that Lane might need in the event that I die, because we don’t get to choose when that is,” Clark says.

Let’s look at Clark’s five-point checklist that he says you should follow so that your family is financially set in the event of your untimely demise.

This article will mainly address those who are married or live with a partner they intend to support when they’re gone.

“This stuff becomes more complicated for people who are living together but are not married, but the issues are the same,” Clark says. “If your intention is for your assets and your accounts to go for the benefit of the other in a relationship, you have to plan for that.”

1. Make Sure You Both Have Credit and Solid Credit Scores

Clark feels strongly that you and your mate do what you can to get your credit in shape. He says he and his wife have worked on their credit so that each of them has good scores.

“We’ve done so many things like making sure she has credit in her own name, and I have credit in my own name,” Clark says.

Start by checking your credit report. If you have poor credit, you can take steps to improve it this year.

2. Become an Authorized User on Each Other’s Credit Cards

Clark says it’s really important to give each other access to credit cards and financial accounts. Because you may open and close accounts throughout the year, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of which cards are in use.

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“We make each other authorized users on the other’s cards, so that way we’ve each established really solid credit,” Clark says.

3. Check Your Will (and Make One if You Haven’t Already)

It’s very important for you to create a will and revise it as it becomes necessary.

“Each of you has got to do wills to make sure that you’ve left the other well provided for,” Clark says. “When you’re married, a will is important if you have assets and if you have kids. And to decide who gets stuff, a will is essential even if you don’t have kids.”

Clark says that if you don’t create a will, you run the risk of having state administrators make decisions for you and your family. “You want your state deciding who raises your kids? You don’t want that. That’s why you do the will,” he adds.

Contrary to popular belief, a will doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. With today’s technology, you can actually create a will in about five minutes for little or no cash.

Here are some popular free and paid options for creating a will:

4. Review Your Assets With a Video Recording

Because paperwork can be lost in a natural disaster or another unfortunate event, it’s a good idea to use your smartphone to video record your possessions. Clark calls this a “walk and talk.”

“You want to walk and talk a video that you store on your cell phone,” Clark says. “Typically with me and mine, it would be in Google’s cloud, where you walk and talk all your possessions.”

“If you ever had a catastrophic loss — a fire, a storm or something like that — that video is key to dealing with the insurance company,” he adds.

Clark says you should update the video every year. He estimates it will take you about 10 minutes. Walk around your home and property and document: ‘Oh, I got that at Target’ or ‘I got that at Sam’s Club’ and ‘I got that at blah, blah, blah and this is what it costs,'” Clark says.

5. Store Your Information Safely

You should also have some trustworthy method of storing information, whether it’s a zip drive or flash drive or something similar. Make sure your spouse or significant other knows how to access it.

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This storage device should be updated once a year with all your accounts, passwords and other sensitive data, Clark says.

Here are some popular storage services with free plans:

Cloud DriveAmount of Free Storage
Apple iCloud 5 GB of free cloud space.
Google 15 GB of free cloud storage
Microsoft OneDrive 5 GB of free cloud storage

Read our guide on free or cheap cloud storage options.

Final Thoughts

Death is not a subject most people want to discuss, but it’s a necessary conversation as you plan for retirement and beyond, Clark says.

He recommends going through your financial checklist annually if you want to take care of the ones you love the most.

Although Clark has decided to carry out his annual checklist on his wedding anniversary, it doesn’t have to be a special occasion. You could choose to do your own checklist on your birthday or even when Daylight Saving Time begins. The important thing is that you pick a date, put it on your calendar every year and follow through by completing the checklist.

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