Take my wife, for instance; she saves everything.
The other day the Honeybee showed me her baseball ticket from our very first date way back on September 24, 1995.
And if I ever feel oddly compelled to scrutinize the birthday card I received from my mother-in-law in 1998, I can rest easy knowing that the Honeybee has it dutifully stored upstairs in our bedroom closet.
What’s that? You say you’re looking for the operating instructions to a vintage Easy Bake oven, circa 1986? I think she can probably whip those up in a jif. If I’m not mistaken, they’re in the closet too, not far from the rest of those 643 old birthday, Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day cards she’s been saving that nobody will ever look at again.
If you’re really interested, I’m pretty sure I can also regale you with every spelling, math, and geography test my kids have ever taken since first grade. (I didn’t think so.)
Protecting the Important Stuff
Unlike my wife, I’m a bit more judicious when it comes to saving things. And like most people, I use a fireproof safe for the most important stuff.
Of course, no strongbox can hold everything — and so that demands a bit of discretion when deciding what to put in them. Here are some of the more important items you should consider protecting:
Birth certificates. Your birth certificate is proof that you are a citizen of the country you live in. Lose it, and you’ll have a difficult time getting a passport, or landing a job that requires proof of citizenship.
Property titles. Yes, home deeds and car titles are replaceable, but why go through the hassle if you don’t have to?
Insurance policies. Home, life and auto insurance policies are a key part of any financial back-up plan. If your house burns down or has been burgled, the first thing you’ll want to get your hands on is a copy of your home insurance policy and your agent’s phone number.
Home photos. Speaking of insurance, photos of the interior and exterior of your home are invaluable for reporting losses due to fire or theft to your insurance company. If possible, keep them on electronic media like a CD or thumb drive.
Safety deposit box keys. Not having access to your safety deposit box during an emergency is not only inconvenient, it can be costly, as the boxes will have to be forced open and replaced at your expense.
Social security cards. Your social security number is required to get a job, collect social security benefits and receive certain other government services. That’s why the US Social Security Administration strongly advises people to not carry the cards on their person.
Passports. Getting a new passport on short notice, while not impossible, is still a tough order. Even expedited passports can take as long three weeks to process.
Financial account info. To ensure you’ll be able to access funds on short notice, be sure to keep a list of contact and account information related to any retirement plans and other financial accounts. You’ll also want to have a contact list of all your creditors; you’ll need to let them know if a particular emergency may result in delayed payments.
Spare car keys. For those who aren’t comfortable using hide-a-keys.
Wills and living trusts. Not only yours, but also any others in which you are the designated executor.
Health care proxies. In addition to your own, you’ll want copies for anyone who has designated you as a health care surrogate.
Medical information. In addition to the phone numbers of your family doctors, you’ll want copies of your medical prescriptions in order to ensure you can rapidly resupply needed medications.
Emergency Cash. Keep a quick-access stash of small bills in case an emergency occurs that catches you with little or no money in your wallet. I accumulated $200 in five- and one-dollar bills over a relatively short period of time by occasionally dropping them in my change jar.
A Few Closing Thoughts
Most fireproof safes are not waterproof. So make sure you protect the contents by wrapping them in a plastic bag.
That being said, assuming the fire gets hot enough, most fireproof boxes cannot prevent any plastic stored within them from melting. That’s why, in the event of a fire, you should take the box with you — but only if it’s safe to do so.
Finally, if you’re worried about having your strongbox stolen by thieves, keep it in an inconspicuous location or — better yet — place it in a locked file cabinet. That’s where we keep ours: in the bottom drawer — right next to several old Pee Chee folders containing coursework from the Honeybee’s freshman year of high school.
After all, you never know when that might come in handy.
Photo Credit: Mykl Roventine