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Organizing your retirement

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Posted: 7 am ET

Certified Estate Planner Jean Dorrell's 85-year-old mother left her pocketbook in the car, parked 50 feet from the hairdresser. During the few minutes while she had her mind on other things, a thief broke the car window and stole her pocketbook, taking all of her credit cards and identification, including her passport.

Getting things reissued was no fun. Dorrell says it took her mother months to get everything replaced. Watching her mother go through this frustration motivated Dorrell, founder of Senior Financial Security in Florida, to create a service for her clients that helps protect them from this experience. She scans in all their records and creates either a computer flash drive or a small black notebook -- or both -- for them to keep in a convenient place. In case of an emergency, they can grab it and go. Or they can let a family member know where it is.

Dorrell provides this service for her financial planning clients, but the idea is something that anyone could do for themselves. Among the documents that she urges clients to copy and include are:

  • Driver's licenses.
  • Passports.
  • Social Security cards.
  • Marriage license.
  • Medicare or other health care identification cards.
  • Living wills and powers of attorney.
  • Pre-made funeral arrangements.
  • Bank statements.
  • Insurance policy declaration pages.
  • Mortgage statement.
  • Pension contacts.
  • Investment information, including CDs, IRAs, annuities and mutual fund accounts.
  • Names and phone numbers for attorneys and insurance agents.

Everybody's retirement information package is different, but you get the idea. Giving this kind of thing a little thought before you or your loved ones need it is worth the effort. It can make everyone's experience better when the inevitable happens.

If you need more help identifying the items that should be on this retirement planning list, there are many organizers available that will help you do this. My favorite is "The Beneficiary Book" by Martin Kuritz. It's an e-book available from Active-Insights. Because you can copy and paste from other computer sources, it makes gathering the information simple.

Kuritz recommends buying two copies -- one to fill out yourself and one to give to your parents. "Show them your completed copy and explain that if you predecease them, you want to make sure they have the information in your book. Then present your parents with the gift copy and ask them to do the same for you," he says.

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Robert McMullen
June 20, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Jean has done it again. She is full of wonderful strategies for us seniors. We have needed this for a long time. Our daughter loss her husband at an early age and he did not leave this information. It took her months to dig out these details. Thanks Jean.
Bob & Cathy

Robert McMullen
June 20, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Jean has done it again. She is full of great ideas. This is what we have been looking for. Our kids have wanted this detail information on their parents for a long time. This would do it. Great article. I hope not only all seniors but every family will consider this approach. I am sure their family will really appreciate it. Our daughter was at a loss for a long time after her husband died at an early age and she did not have this information without months of searching records. Thanks again Jean. Bob & Cathy

b.c lapp
June 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Wonderful article and one that will be helpful to us because it adds to what we have already done. It also serves as a reminder of the need to up-date our info. Thanks, again.