Between my personal accounts, my business accounts, and the joint accounts I have with my wife, it’s difficult for me to keep track of my essential information. As we’ve been working to refinance our house, for example, there have been several times I’ve had to dig for needed account numbers and statements. I’m not the only one with this problem.

Earlier this month, Meghan wrote to ask:

How do you compile a comprehensive list of account information? I’ve been trying to put together a list with everything I need to know about my various accounts, but I don’t know how to make sure I’m tracking everything I should (account numbers, contact numbers, beneficiaries, etc.). I’m sure I’m missing something. Of course, I realize now I should have taken note of all of this as I opened accounts over the years. Since I didn’t, is there an efficient way to get all of the important details in the one place? (And how should I handle joint vs. separate accounts? Is it possible to authorize my husband to deal with accounts that remain (and will continue to remain) only in my name?)

There are two issues when compiling your records:

  • Finding all of the information.
  • Organizing all of the information.

Because my own organization is a mess, I don’t have much advice for either one. I do know that my credit report is the first place I’ll start when I decide to gather information. If I recall correctly, credit reports list much of the data you need — all in one place.

My current plan is to record my information using Mark Gavagan’s It’s All Right Here life and affairs organizer. This three-ring binder is big and unwieldy, but is amazingly comprehensive. (I wish there were a web2.0 app that did the same thing.) Really, though, I’m just as lost as Meghan. I’m not sure which account information to collect, and I’m not sure what to do with it once I have it.

What advice can you offer me and Meghan? Do you track your account information? What tools do you use? How often do you update it? Does anyone besides you know where to find it? I’ll use your answers as the basis for a future post on keeping things organized.

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