Written by: Lauren Lunsberger
Photos: Taryn Emerick
Last year Nancy Juetten had an epiphany—she was in the dark about a lot of crucial financial information and household operations. Her husband, Steve, is a financial planner, so it naturally fell into his wheelhouse to manage it. Nancy worried that if something were to happen to him she would be in trouble, so she decided to take matters into her own hands. Earlier this year, Nancy and Steve launched Life Goes on Roadmap, a digital program (that mimics a road trip) families can use to compile, store and access all their vital information.
Reflections magazine: What was the impetus for Life Goes on Roadmap?
Nancy Juetten: I noticed on social media how so many people I was connected to were being affected by tough situations that were totally random and life-changing. A gentleman I knew, at 60, went into the hospital with the flu and died. Someone else got divorce papers served after 32 years of marriage. Another was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. It was sort of a wake-up call. These things were happening to other people, but I’m in the same age range—I’m close to 56, and my husband is 65. I said to my husband, “I know we’ve got our act together, but if something happened to you right now, I don’t know if I would be able to pick up the pieces.” It was a blind spot.
RM: How did you start that tough conversation?
NJ: I told him if I could have a Christmas gift that would be it—to organize all the key things that keep our lives running.
RM: What were the key pieces of information you wanted?
NJ: Information about the safety deposit box, bank accounts, all kinds of online accounts and their passwords, property and investment information, insurance policies, doctors, wills, personal contacts—all the real things you to need to know. He created an organizer, a low-tech spreadsheet, and we spent a Saturday filling it out. It gave me such peace of mind that I thought, We should share this with the world.
RM: What was the biggest surprise you experienced throughout the process?
NJ: We started having all these important conversations between us that had been delayed for a very long time. That’s what’s been most rewarding with other people too; it’s all about igniting the right conversations.
RM: At what point did you take this idea and turn it into something you could help other people with?
NJ: We started sharing the idea on Facebook and got a dramatic response. We put out a useful report people could download and kept refining the guidebook. About 2,000 people downloaded it in a short time, since February 8.
• Make sure both partners’ names are on utility bills and essential services.
• Make a point to learn how to turn off the power, water and gas at all your properties—primary residence and vacation homes.
• Share access to bank and investment accounts with the access codes and security questions so either partner can take control if need be.
• Most couples share 130 online accounts, and some of them relate to services with recurring billing. Make sure either party can gain access and control as needed.
• To get equal footing is the responsible thing to do. Sometimes one partner has been taking the lead for way too long and handles everything online, and the other can’t find the checkbook. Be open to renegotiating roles and responsibilities so that if life serves up a bump in the road, you can still go on without missing a beat.