When Mumbai-based entrepreneur Nikshubha Karnik’s husband Avinash passed away earlier this year from COVID-19 related complications, she had to mourn while thinking about the hard reality of keeping her family financially secure. “There is no will. I am clueless about his investments, insurance plans and employer benefits,” Karnik told Re:Set. “I didn’t even know his netbanking password. It is a mess.”
Despite being a universal crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women in India. The second wave has ravaged the economy and shrunk household budgets even as women are doing more emotional and physical unpaid labour at home. As per the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, it has also reduced the already low labour participation rate for women even further. It’s now 11% for women compared to 71% for men. Women have also suffered a much higher unemployment rate of 17% compared to 6% for men, and are bearing the brunt of financial insecurity.
With finances often still being controlled by husbands or other male members of the family, a sudden death or hospitalization at this time can leave women searching for crucial information and documents. Having a financial black box — a physical or digital repository that contains all essential information and documents — can be crucial.
But do you really need one right now?
The concept may seem sombre and the task can feel cumbersome because it means embracing the hard realities of mortality, but it’s still recommended families create a financial black box to insure you and your family from additional stress during the pandemic.
“Having a black box ensures that you are not left in a jam or running pillar to post in an emergency,” Kanika Agarwal, an independent financial advisor, told Re:Set.
Just remember to give your older children, trusted friend or family member access to this box via nominations or login details. “This will ensure that even your absence does not undermine your family’s financial safety,” Agarwal said.
Where do you maintain it?
Go in for a cyber locker or a bank locker. List details of your family’s important documents such as PAN card, Aadhaar card, voter ID, driver’s licence and passport on an online spreadsheet and keep it in a digi-locker. Or, make physical copies of the documents and keep them in a bank locker.
“Provide contact details as and where possible, and update the information every three to six months. Letting your chartered accountant or lawyer know about the black box is also a good idea,” Vidhi Mehta, a lawyer at the Bombay High Court, told Re:Set.
What should it contain?
First, add a master-list of everything you are putting into the locker. It will act as a checklist for you and your family. Then, add the following items:
Will: It will ensure that assets owned by you or your spouse or your parents can be claimed only by the rightful heirs. “Keep it updated and list all movable and immovable property, including property, FDs, bonds, insurances and other assets,” Mehta said.
Bank account details: List netbanking username and passwords, and access details to your family’s bank accounts. Mention where passbooks are kept and bank locker details, if any. Ensure nomination to all bank accounts and lockers is updated. Don’t forget to state if there are any utility payments or outgoings that are linked to particular accounts.
Mutual funds: Share login IDs and passwords to your family’s online accounts. List folio numbers and details of the asset management company. “If you have engaged a portfolio management company, share their details and the contact of your liaison,” Agarwal said.
Direct equity investments: Jot down details connected to your and your spouse’s or parents’ demat account, investments made, online trading account login and password, and your broker’s details.
Insurance documents: Keep physical and digital copies of your family’s insurance policies. List the policy number, beneficiary, renewal date, premium amount, date of maturity and nominee for each policy, along with the contact details of the agent.
Funds and bonds: If you have investments in the Public Provident Fund, Post Office Savings Schemes, government bonds or the National Pension Scheme, mention their details. “Mention investments in gold or unregulated investments like chit funds,” Agarwal told Re:Set.
Employer benefits: Add the UAN (unique account number) given by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation and any other benefits provided by your or your spouse’s organization to the black box.
Real estate/jewellery: All important documents related to real estate should be kept here including title deeds, mortgage documents and society registration paperwork if applicable. List out which jewellery is stored and where.
Loans: Keep physical and digital copies of loans that your family has taken along with EMI details, repayment details and due dates. Update this regularly.
Cards: Make a list of all your credit and debit cards. Mention any ongoing EMIs or outgoings connected to it.