Imagine that you needed to go somewhere NOW and stay there for a while. Like maybe weeks or months. What would you need to take? It kinda matters why you're leaving, or maybe it doesn't. You could be fleeing a burning house like my neighbours did, or flying to a sick relative, or responding to any number of natural or family disasters. And the last thing you need at a time like that is to be running around wondering about paperwork and documents to take with you.
If you have a laptop, that's a really good start, but think about all the identity-related numbers you sometimes need to look up. For example, what if you needed to write a cheque? It doesn't happen very often these days, but should you take your chequebook with you just in case? Maybe it would be enough to have your account information with you, so you could call your branch and ask them to courier you cheques. Maybe you live in a small enough town (I do) that the bank knows who you are by your name and doesn't need the account number. What about all your credit cards, even the ones you don't use and keep for emergencies? Can you get the balance for all of those online or over the phone -- sure you can. But not all of them tell you your credit limit (why? I have no idea) so perhaps a list of cards and their limits would be handy. And coming back to that burning house, I bet your insurance policy is in it. Do you even know your agent's phone number? Why on earth would you? It's not like most of us chat with whoever sold us that policy all those years ago.
Lifehacker suggests putting this sort of thing on a "getaway drive". List your bank accounts, with the phone numbers and names of the branches and your rep or agent. List where your safety deposit boxes are. Put everyone's SIN, and maybe scan your passports, drivers licenses and so on. Scan your insurance policies, at least the most recent bill with your policy number on it. If you might end up going out the door without your credit cards, having the numbers to call to get new ones (with your account numbers and whatever other information they might ask for to confirm your identity) could save a lot of time. Think about needing to replace cards, ID, and the like. Think about needing to connect to your finances from somewhere else, maybe from someone else's computer -- you know, that doesn't have a file called passwords.txt on the desktop and a Favourites list of links to all the companies you have accounts with? Put what you need on here - a Word file, a bunch of JPGs (scan stuff or just take pictures of it with your digital camera), an HTML file of links. Then encrypt the heck out of it, and put it on a little memory stick / flash drive. [If you've got lots of spare space, take a hundred or so pictures of stuff in your house -- the CD collection in the living room, a slow video pan across each bookshelf, your dishes, your closets, and so on to simplify any future insurance claims. Imagine being able to answer the question "how many books were in the house?" ] Put the drive somewhere that's always with you but not incredibly losable, or that's easy to grab on the way out of the door. Heck, make a copy and snail mail it to the family member who lives furthest from you, and ask them to hold it for you indefinitely. One less thing to worry about.
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