I’ve got some bad news folks. I heard today on the radio that it is very likely everyone who is involved in the points and miles game is going to die one day, and there isn’t a lot we can do to prevent it.
The unfortunate problem with dying is that the people who survive you need to not only deal with the emotional pain of your loss, but also a considerable amount of stress and hard work dealing with your estate. And to be frank I think that many people who travel hack have money operations than Al Capone at the height of the Prohibition would be envious of. At the very least you owe it to them to help make it easy for them to piece together the money trail and ensure that they are able to access all of your finances.
There are many Estate Planning concerns and strategies, ranging from a simple Will and Testament; to elaborate Trust Funds and use of planning tools such as Roth IRAs and 529 Plans to skip generation tax -those are all great fodder for future thought, but before you think of any of that keep it simple, and just create a master record of where all of your Assets and Liabilities are located – you are going to need that list later if you do decide to do any Estate Planning regardless.
There are many players of this game who have authorization from spouses (and perhaps pets…) to open accounts in their names too, so make sure you are also telling your loved ones what accounts you opened in their names with your money, not just your own! I’m going to get judgmental on you here, I hope you are OK with that:
If you play the credit card game you have a duty to your significant others to create a list of accounts and processes to help them unravel your finances.
Creating The Master List
This is a highly confidential document, it requires all of the information for another person to obtain access to your accounts. With that in mind I would recommend splitting the data into several documents, with a key on each that allows referencing across the documents, such as the following:
- Index Document: List the locations of other documents in series. Anything stored online should be password protected, and don’t keep everything on the same folder. I would recommend that the Index Document has a hard copy, ideally with a copy stored in a location outside of the home in the event that it is lost in a fire.
- Overview Document: List the Institutional Account Names and Types. Within this I include notations regarding impact for liquidation or termination of account. For example, there are rules to follow if your spouse inherits an IRA, and also there are implications if credit cards are closed to early (potential loss of points) I wouldn’t normally focus on cards but since we are focused on a Travel Hacker profile here there will be a lot of these cards that will require shutting down.
- Account Numbers Sheet: A simple, three section document listing the Reference Number and Account Number and Online Username. This will be used with the Overview document to complete the puzzle of the location and details of the accounts.
- Account Password Sheet: A simple two section document with Reference Number, and Password. This document will give the way into the account, but without the account numbers or online user name will be useless if found.
You don’t need to take the steps here to separate the data if you feel comfortable having it in a single location, the real key is to ensure that the entire document, or the Index Document is in a place that will be found by the survivor in the event of your death. If you decide to store them in a Bank Safety Deposit box you must ensure that the survivor knows that there is a Safety Deposit box at that bank!
Resources: please feel free to download my versions of this in excel and word format below:
2. Overview Document (excel)
3. Account Numbers Sheet (excel)
4. Account Password Sheet (excel)
MasterList Lite Edition
Many of you will claim to be too busy to create the lists in the manner stated above, I can agree with that. However, you simply have to do at least a ‘Lite’ version of this to help them out, it will be a simplified list as follows:
The Lite version will just list the institution where you have an account, your significant others will need to track down the value and account numbers by contacting them and using your SSN to access. It will be more time consuming for them, but at least you are letting them know where to look, which will be a wonderful help to them.
Resources: please feel free to download my versions of this in word format below:
MasterList Lite (word)
Mapping the moving Money
Unfortunately, thus far we are only talking here about money when stationary, but it is as important to map out money movements and processes in order to catch any money that is ‘in cycle’.
For example, I currently have a Manufactured Spending method that involves being mailed $5,000 that I charge to a specific card. If I order the monetary instrument on day 1, the card is charged, but until I receive the letter there is money ‘in play’ if I was to die during the in play period my wife would see a charge for $5,000 and no knowledge of what or when that is coming back in, therefore it could be viewed as a long term debt, causing stress. Furthermore that process requires a letter to arrive at my house packed with $5,000 in goodies, without knowing about this process that letter may be missed or discarded.
The money mapping letter should include access to trusted friends who can help explain, for example, if you learned of the $5,000 manufacturing spend here then write a note explaining the process, and include my email address for any further help. Likewise if you learned of something on a forum such as Flyertalk please include the name of the person who shared a deal with you via Private Message or the thread that explains it further.
Here is a good comment for mapping the movement of your manufactured spending:
1 Amazon Payments: Each month I send approximately $1000 from my Amazon Payments account to yours, this is done via email from address XXX@gmail.com to address YYY@gmail.com when it arrives in YYY account I cash it out to the bank using an electronic transfer.
There are 4 accounts that I use for this process, you need to check in each of them to make sure that there isn’t any funds sitting around that you can cash out. Go to Amazonpayments.com and login as follows The accounts are:
AAA@gmail.com password: springstein
BBB@gmail.com password: clapton
XXX@gmail.com password: jagger
YYY@gmail.com password: mileyrules
Again, if you prefer you can split up this into two documents so that you don’t leave your password with your email, but if you are going for the ‘Lite’ approach this is a case where I think you should have the passwords in one place, since calling into Amazon Payments to explain the situation and look at 4 accounts is going to be very difficult.
Resources: please feel free to download my versions of this below:
Movement of Money document (word)
When mapping money movements I recommend keeping a diary for a month too, that is a good way to track your manufactured spending and make sure you don’t forget about the $10,000 in Vanilla Reload cards you wash through Bluebird each month.. oops! Just think, especially if money is tight what would happen if they didn’t know you were playing with fire and had a good 5 figure amount of money in play on a seemingly innocent looking card?
Some Readers have asked me for an older version of these files, so please find them below in Office 97-2003 format.