Do you know his passwords?

Username and passwordI recently spent some time with a few friends who wanted to pick my brain about my blog. They have been reading my posts and thinking about their own lives. We ended up asking a few uncomfortable questions. There were sombre looks when I asked if they knew their husbands’ passwords. The short answer is no. If something were to happen to their spouse, they wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to get into his files or even know what to look for.

Here’s a quick summary of some of their concerns:

  • They’re worried because there is so much they don’t know about their finances. Most of them take care of the day-to-day stuff with the kids but the overall finances are a bit of a mystery.
  • By and large the husbands take care of the investments. Many of the women feel like idiots when the conversation turns to investment vehicles (i.e. stocks, bonds, etc) so they let the men take care of it. (I’d be curious to know if men in fact feel much more knowledgeable in this domain. Perhaps it’s just our perception that men have their finger on the investment pulse. That’s for another book.)
  • They have no clue what investments they have. They know they hold stocks but they can’t say which and they have no idea how they’re doing beyond hearing their husbands grumble about them every once in a while.
  • They typically take care of most of the banking but they’re not completely sure what accounts their husbands hold.

From what I’m hearing as I speak to women about their situation, my friends are certainly not alone. There is a division of labour in every home – that’s normal. However the problems start when there is a concurrent lack of knowledge about what the other half is doing. Sadly these problems typically only come to light when there has been a crisis – that is, a breakdown of the marriage or a death. If you haven’t yet read Cathy’s story – What you don’t know can hurt you, have a look. It’s an excellent illustration of this point.

Take a moment to think about your current situation: How would you fare if your spouse disappeared tomorrow? Would you be able to easily access all of your accounts, including his? Do you know all of the passwords? Are you aware of all of your banking and investment details?

The answer for most of us, sadly, is no. Yes, we know that there are files for everything (maybe) and that the passwords are kept on various post-it notes/memo pads/printed lists hidden somewhere clever (if only you could remember where that is). But for many of us, if we had to retrieve all of that information tomorrow we would be in a bind. Now add the stress of an emotional situation to that and you’ve got a recipe for a whole lot of pain.

So why don’t we take the time to store all of this information in one easy place? Because seriously, who has the time for that, right? And even if you were seized by an organizational goddess-like moment, how could you be sure that you got it all?

A happy accident

As so often happens in life, I came across a solution to this problem completely by accident. Last year I attended a conference for mortgage professionals and while I am not one of them, a friend of mine suggested that it would be a really good idea for me to meet a number of her colleagues to familiarize them with my Rent to Own Program.

So off I went and within minutes of arriving, my friend pointed to a woman and said, “You’ve got to talk to her. She’s got something you need to know about.” That’s when I met Sandra Tisiot and I first learned about My Life Locker.

Organizational system for womenBy day Sandra is a mortgage agent but on the side she is the creator of an organizational system called My Life Locker. It turns out that Sandra had become sick and tired of having to ferret around in multiple places to find documents and personal information. She looked everywhere for a product that would help her keep all of that important information in one location but nothing existed. So she created one.

I don’t typically promote products on my blog and I have absolutely nothing to gain from sales of Sandra’s book. I am recommending it because it is such a clever tool to address what is clearly a big issue for women: a lack of knowledge about critical information in their lives.

Here’s a link to Sandra’s website: http://www.mylifelocker.com/. The book is divided in four major sections: Family; Important things; Money; and Everything else. The cost is $34.95. If you prefer to do things electronically, then you can pick up an e-version. Sandra is about to produce an update and as a result the current version is on sale for $3.99. To get that price just enter the coupon code POC2012. As of the posting date, Sandra could not confirm when the coupon will expire.

Too many passwords

Here’s another clever tool to which my husband introduced me (kicking and screaming, he would likely add): https://lastpass.com/. It’s a website, a browser extension and a mobile app that will make this whole business of passwords a breeze. In fact, the motto on the website is “The last password you ever need to remember.”

My husband Mark is very concerned about online security. It made him crazy that I was not exactly diligent about ensuring that all accounts have strong, unique passwords. He repeatedly told me about LastPass and every time I’d reply, “Yes, yes, I’ll get right on it.” He eventually installed it on my computer, spent ten minutes showing me how to use it and then waited patiently for my sheepish admission that I should have done this ages ago.

It really is a brilliant, easy system that generates strong, random passwords for all of your accounts and then keeps track of them all. You just need to remember one password, the one to get into LastPass in the first place. This also means that if your husband uses the same system, you only need to know a single password to access his information.

The best part of it from my perspective is that LastPass automatically fills in your information when you log into your various accounts once you’ve told it to remember your Username and Password. In one easy step you’ve just increased your security and simplified your life. I love it when efficiency and effectiveness come together so seamlessly.

Back to Sandra. During our conversation she said something that struck me: “We are moved by inspiration or desperation.” Do yourself a favour, take action now while you’re in inspiration mode. It’s a lot easier than tackling this when desperation hits.

If you know a woman who is widowed or divorced, I’d love to interview her to hear her story and to record her lessons learned. Please connect us via email. Her anonymity is assured. Thanks for reading.

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