By Amy Miller, AFC®
I previously mentioned that I recently attend MilMoneyCon22, a conference for financial professionals united by the military. During the conference, I learned about MILDOCS.org and was so impressed with this resource that I thought I should pass this handy tool on to all of you.
What is MILDOCS?
Understanding that record keeping can be a challenge for military families, AMBA knew that a resource was needed to help with document organization. Working with several partners, MILDOCS.ORG was created.
Fashioned after a “NEO Kit” (kits that are required of military families living in high-risk locations, ensuring they are prepared for possible evacuations), MILDOCS is a financial preparedness tool kit that is intended to provide military families assistance in organizing and storing their most important documents and is set up so that you can access a checklist for each category of life – Identification, Personal Financials, Personal Property, Real Property, Vehicles, Insurance, Medical & Dental Records, Legal Documents, School Records and Pet Records.
Each checklist has a detailed list of what documents go in each category. Additionally, the site also offers tips on protecting your information and links to other resources pertinent to each category.
Why use MILDOCS?
As a financial counselor, I always include a discussion focused on important documents and their storage with my clients. More often than I would like, I find that many have no idea if they have all of them or where they are stored – many would have to search their home if one was needed.
It’s so important to have these documents organized and stored in a safe, secure location – not just for easy access but also to protect you and your family from identity theft. The FTC reports that approximately 1.4 million people were victims of identity theft in 2021, with children making up the largest demographic. They also report that Americans are most likely to become victims and lost around 1.7 billion dollars last year in out-of-pocket costs associated with identity theft. (that number alone should motivate you)
Further, five years of data reported to the FTC on Identitytheft.gov shows that active-duty service members are 76% more likely than other adults to be victims. This is due to the increased possibility that other individuals may have access to important documents and financial records while service members are deployed. Unfortunately, this is often a family member.
Best Practices and Tips for using MILDOCS
Now that I’ve convinced you of the importance of organizing and securing your documents with those statistics, I thought I would put together a few tips that may help you best utilize Mildocs and have listed them below:
*Use a binder or filing system.
*Print each checklist and keep it with those documents – I like to use it as a “cover page” and file the documents in order behind it
*Store in a fireproof & waterproof box or safe. Ensure that your safe/storage is not easily accessible to intruders/robbers or any other individual you don’t want to access your personal information (remember, identify theft can occur within the family). If you are storing in a safe that is in your home, purchase one that can be bolted down – your documents aren’t secure if the entire safe can be picked up and carried away. If that is not an option, I recommend checking into a safe deposit box at your local financial institution. They are typically inexpensive – especially compared to the financial losses you could incur if your identity is stolen. I honestly think this is one of the most secure storage locations during deployments and TDYs since it’s only accessible to those you have granted access to and given a key.
*Keep a digital version that is password protected. Although you may not have access to these during an emergency or natural disaster, it’s essential to have a backup of each item. Also, ensure you use a strong password that is not easily guessed. Use multi-factor authentication if possible.
*Do not ship or pack with household goods. This valuable information needs to stay in your possession and protected.
Using MILDOCS is the perfect time to not only get all your important documents stored all together and in a safe place, but it is also an opportunity to go over all your documents. Review your current loan terms, interest rates, beneficiaries, etc., and make any necessary changes or updates. (this should be done annually)
MILDOCS is not just for military families – anyone that wants to get organized can use these sites and checklists – so share with your family and friends!
You can access the site by using this link: http://mildocs.org/