Your Family Important Information Document
Why you need an important information document on paper
I couldn’t decide if this should go under the “Emergency Preparedness” category or the ”Organization” category, because I feel like it belongs equally to both. This is something to help with your everyday organization of information, but also would be gold to have in the event of an emergency.
As I was writing the Emergency Preparedness Step 4 post on protecting your important documents in a fireproof waterproof box, I realized this was an important step to that. What if your computer were lost in a house fire, along with any pieces of paper with passwords and account information on them? It sure would be nice to have a copy of all of that information in your firebox!
I would even dare say that creating an IMPORTANT INFORMATION document is life-changing, even if you never have to use the copy that you keep in your fireproof box.
Because after creating this, you will have a single document to refer to that will be so organized and user-friendly, that paying bills will be a snap. You won’t have to call your health insurance company every year when you forget what your deductibles are, or need to know whether or not your kid needs a referral to see an ENT specialist.
Gone will be the days when you have to shamefully click on the “forgot password” button because you’re not sure which of the 12 standard passwords you used for that particular website.
So let’s get started! This is STEP 5 in Emergency Preparedness!
The Original Important Information Document
When I started this Word document about 10 years ago, it was just a convenient place to keep track of passwords. You know how some of them require that they be six characters or more, and others need a capital and lowercase letter, and others need those plus a number, and others need special characters, etc., etc., etc.
I got sick of having a loose piece of paper in the desk drawer with random usernames and passwords. One loose paper became 10 loose papers…you get the point.
I finally decided it was time to put them all together. And as long as I was going to the trouble of combining them all into one place, I decided to be thorough and put it ALL in one place. By ALL, I mean, for each account with a username and password, I included any information I may need in the future:
- Company name
- Account number
- Customer service phone number
- Any other info that might be helpful
- Notes from phone calls I’ve made to the company (our Verizon section is particularly long with notes about plan changes, contract dates, promo periods, etc)
- If it is a bill, I put how I pay that bill (if it’s on autopay, if it comes out of our checking account, if it bills to our credit card, etc)
The Evolution of the Document
This document has evolved over the years.
I originally organized it alphabetically, with each company name in bold, with the corresponding information below each company name.
After a while, I realized I was consistently looking at the same 10-15 accounts over and over again (mainly the monthly bills I was paying), so I decided to put those at the top, in the order the bills came in each month. Then the rest of the account info was alphabetized after that first section of priority accounts.
I added everyone’s names, birthdays, social security numbers, and driver’s license numbers at the top when I married Tyler and all of the sudden had 4 new people to keep track of.
I also added our WIFI username and password.
A few months later, I decided to add a page with just insurance information on it. I now had kids with different insurance policies with secondary policies for some of them, and some not, and it was just a big mess.
Hold on. I think this deserves its own heading.
Adding Insurance Information to your Document
I set aside a day and gathered all the information I had on all of our insurance ANYTHINGS.
I created a new heading for each insurance policy and took notes from what I had in front of me.
Then I called every health insurance, dental insurance and eye doctor insurance company that any of us were covered under, and took notes on things like:
- What types of appointments required referrals
- What age insurance cut off if the kids weren’t fulltime students
- Any other weird things like how often the dental insurance would cover bitewing x-rays for the kids
- You name it, I asked it. I even asked them what else I should ask.
This may seem like a waste of time to call and ask when you don’t have a specific situation to ask about. But let me tell you something…those were the best 2 hours I had spent on the phone in a long time!
When I was finished, I had all the details of everyone’s different policies and coverages, and now whenever any of the kids (or we) need anything, I just open this nifty file, and all my answers are right there in one place. In my OWN non-medical, non-code language.
I took a break and tackled the auto, homeowner, and life insurance the following week.
Just below that section, I put everyone’s primary care physician with the phone number and address, as well as dentists, etc.
How to Make Your Own "IMPORTANT INFORMATION" Document
Okay, a few tips from someone who has had one of these on her computer for over 10 years.
1 – Use a computer
This is 2018, people. No handwriting allowed. You know why? Because when you decide to switch from Comcast to AT&T, or switch from Verizon to T-Mobile, or when you call your husband’s health insurance company for the 82nd time in two weeks because you made the mistake of thinking it would be a good idea to get dual coverage for your kids when you remarried…
…only to find that their current policy kicks into secondary mode whenever any other insurance is added, which ultimately makes every single medical bill double the cost, but no one can seem to figure out how to remove the children from said policy, and you get a different person every single flippin’ phone call, and then you get transferred to 19 different people and you have to explain your story to every single flippin’ one of those people…
…and you write down each of the names of each of the people you talk to, just in case one of them happens to show a spark of understanding for your really not-so-complex situation, so you can add them to your Christmas card list, and send them flowers every year for the rest of their life, for not being a total and completely incompetent moron, well, you will run out of room, and then you’ll have to rewrite everything.
So take it from someone who knows. Type it.
2 – Password protect the document
This is actually a really simple thing to do. I am going to tell you how to do it in Microsoft Word. But I’m sure you could search it in the “HELP” section and get step-by-step instructions from whatever program you are using.
For Microsoft Word, go up and click on the 4 little colored box thingies in the upper left-hand corner of the document.
Go down and hover over “PREPARE.”
In the column that appears, you will see “ENCRYPT DOCUMENT.”
It’ll ask you to enter a password, and … DONE. Now only you can open that document. Pretty cool, huh?
3 – Decide what information you want to include and how you will organize it
I created a handy dandy little free printable for you to print out and keep by your side as you tackle this life-changing task. (you can get it at the bottom of this page)
This is just a baseline for you. This is the information I put in mine, and how I organized it.
You can take it step-by-step if doing this whole thing in one day is too overwhelming.
Suggested Schedule to Break this up into easier chunks:
- Day 1 – Print out the free printable (subscribe to this blog at the bottom of this page, and snag your ready-to-fill-in document from the link that will be sent in your confirmation email).
- Day 2 – Type every family member’s name, birthdate, social security number, and driver’s license number at the top
- Day 3 – Go through all your monthly bills, and list them in order, filling in all pertinent information
- Day 4 – List all the other accounts you can think of, and fill in all information for each of them.
- Day 5 – Alphabetize what you did in Day 4 (use the cut and paste features to do this quickly)
- Day 6 – Gather all your insurance policies (health, dental, eye, homeowner/renter, auto, life)
- Day 7 – List each policy, and fill in any information that you know
- Day 8 – Call each insurance company and get any information that you DON’T know
- Day 9 – PRINT IT OUT and put it in your fireproof waterproof box. Now go have some ice cream!
What are you waiting for?!
Once you’ve done this, move on to Emergency Preparedness Step 6.
If you missed Emergency Preparedness Step 4, all about getting and putting together a fireproof box, check it out HERE!