4 MIN READ
Where do you keep the items important to you? A shoebox in your closet or in a dresser drawer? Or maybe you proudly display them in a shadow box or store them away in a cedar chest for safe keeping. Perhaps they’re even saved in the cloud.
Whether physical or digital and legal documents or sentimental keepsakes, we humans can accumulate quite a bit in our lifetimes. Many of these items play key roles when planning our finances and futures. Keeping those items safe, secure, and close at hand can make our lives easier, bring memories flooding back, and offer direction to our loved ones when we pass.
And sure, we can store physical items in fireproof vaults in our homes or in safe deposit boxes at the bank to cherish now and later pass down to those we love. But in today’s teched-out world, what about digital assets?
There’s a secure place for those, too: A digital safe deposit box. While your financial accounts are an important piece, a digital safe deposit box can also serve as a place to store related documents and info from insurance statements to online account info and even your will. But deciding what to store, where, and who to share the information with can be tough. Here’s where you can start.
What's a "Digital" Safe Deposit Box?
Let’s begin with the basics. A digital safe deposit box is a secure archive where you can store everything from legal and insurance documents to credit card, banking, and investment information as well as details about your phone, computer, and online accounts.
Unlike a physical location, a digital safe deposit box is usually unlimited in capacity. Valuables and sentimental items alike can share the shelves, so you can also keep stories, family recipes, photos, and more digitally.
You can also securely share access to your digital safe deposit box with your proxy or proxies, allowing or restricting access as to information as you prefer. From storing what you need now to passing it on when you pass on, this digital tool is a vehicle for staying organized today and can streamline the flow of information to loved ones if something were to happen to you.
Unfortunately, It Can't Hold Everything
While you can keep quite a bit in your digital safe deposit box, just like you couldn’t scan a $100 bill to deposit it in the bank, you just can’t digitize some things. And, while other things can be digitized, their physical counterparts can still hold monetary, legal, or sentimental value. Consider your passport: It’s great to have a digital copy just in case, but you also need the physical version to travel outside the country or use as identification. In cases like this, you may digitize information as a backup or create a copy to share with loved ones — but also keep the original “hard copy.”
Pro tip: You can use your digital safe deposit box to note where the physical version of each item is located.
Leaving a Legacy
Anyone who has administered an estate or cared for an incapacitated family member knows the value of having one’s affairs in order. What may seem like a significant investment of time is often minor compared to the manyfold value it could provide your loved ones.
The peace of mind a digital safe deposit box can offer both today and in the future is invaluable, but it’s also a place to store and share memories. And 69% of Americans “say they most want to be remembered for memories shared with loved ones.”
What to Keep
So, with so many documents, details, memories, and more to store, which should you save first? I recommend starting with the following, in order:
1. Basic personal information — Document your contact information and where you store essential items like your driver’s license and Social Security card.
2. Online life — List your devices, email accounts, social media profiles, and more. Begin by entering your phone passcode if nothing else.
3. Health insurance — Name your primary health insurance provider and type of policy, leave instructions for accessing the data, and note the place where you keep your insurance card or cards.
4. Financial accounts and assets — Record where you bank, which credit cards you have and which of them are on autopay, who your financial planner is, where you keep your retirement funds, and so on.
5. Will — You may choose not to create a digital copy, but note where the physical copy is located or who can access it.
When you’ve organized your life around your digital necessities, it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. Imagine not having to tear your desk or file cabinet apart searching for that last vehicle insurance statement. And if you can safely share the information with those you’ve designated to lend a hand, whether it’s your partner or financial professional, it can help ensure those who need it have the access they require. And what’s more convenient than having everything available from your mobile device?
Since you can save so much of your valuable personal identifiable information in your digital safe deposit box, be sure to find a safe and secure place to store it. Think of it like your other financial planning tools, and ensure you have — and your information has — the protection you need.
About the Author
Jason Speciner is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, an Enrolled Agent, and the founder of fee-only firm Financial Planning Fort Collins. He is also a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), Financial Planning Association® (FPA®), and XY Planning Network. Since 2004, he has served clients of all ages and backgrounds with unique experience working with members of generations X and Y.
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