Now that I have made the case for harnessing the benefits of technology, I will don my cautionary hat. Technology brings a wealth of good things, but be wary of the following:
Mind ergonomic best practices.
Frequent reading and typing on computers, tablets, and smartphones without regard to your posture and movements can cause chronic thumb, wrist, neck, or back pain. Be conscious of your usage habits. Take breaks. For more advice, take a look at this article from Next Avenue.
Turn off your device well before bedtime.
Digital device illumination can wreak havoc on your ability to get to sleep or stay asleep. You can learn more, here.
Protect your data.
We send tons of data over Web connections and store data in the “cloud.” Some is obviously confidential e.g., bank account information. However, even information you consider innocuous might help someone steal your identity or know when you are out of town. Heed warnings about strong passwords, safe sites, and WiFi connections. For more information, check out this article from computer security experts at McAfee.
Protect vulnerable adults.
Our ability to understand and handle financial matters is one of the first abilities to decline as we age. The declining financial ability of the elderly on top of increased use of technology by banks is fertile soil for abuse. The online space presents one more opportunity for fraudsters to prey on the elderly. A recent study by Allianz showed that the single best way to prevent and detect elder financial abuse is to make sure the elderly discuss financial information with a trusted individual.
For detailed suggestions on ways to protect your elderly loved ones, take a careful look at this article.
Address your virtual afterlife.
Those who survive you need to be aware of your digital assets and how to access them. Social media, bank, and investment accounts contain valuable information e.g., financial detail, pictures etc. Settling your estate is impeded when no one knows where you have accounts and online assets and your passwords to access them. The move to digital often means no paper trail is available to track them. Make sure your estate plan informs your heirs about digital assets and gives them the information to do so.7 For example, keep a record of your:
- Social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn
- Bank accounts
- Bill payment accounts
- Picture, video, or music accounts
- E-mail accounts
- Domain names and account registrations
This digital information should be part of your estate planning documentation. To get started, read this article from NextAvenue. Then, at a minimum make and maintain a very clear list of all digital assets and passwords. That said, not one IT person alive would advise you to write down your passwords and leave the list in your desk drawer or in a Word document on your computer for fear of evil doers gaining easy access. What are the options for 50+-year-old brains? I recommend EstateMap (yes, technology!)
EstateMap is an online repository for information and documents. The site has an intuitive, self-explanatory interface that will take you step-by-step to identify, label, store, and organize different kinds of information that you want passed along after your death. Check it out at EstateMap.com.
Make your final gift a gift, not a headache. Do your heirs a big favor and make sure your estate plan covers your digital assets.
But enough of the dire warnings. Act smart. In a nutshell—moderation, prudence, planning.