People have dual lives these days, one in real time and one online. Even if you do not use Facebook or other social media sites, chances are you have online banking or online bill paying. Most people have email accounts, even if it is only used occasionally to see photos from family and friends.
In order to access one’s online life, you need to have access to passwords. It is recommended that you use a different password on each of your accounts. Of course, most people do not want to do that. Using your child’s name, a pet’s name, address or birthday is not recommended for a password because they are too easy to crack. Passwords should contain letters including at least one upper case letter, numbers and at least one special character like a punctuation mark. The longer your password, the better, according to security experts.
An index card, stored near the computer, with a few of your frequently used passwords, can save time and frustration. Be careful to hide it from plain view. Ideally, you should have hints on the card rather than the actual password.
When a family member becomes sick or dies, you might need access to important accounts, such as banking, to assist in the interim. At worst, you will need to wrap up loose ends in case of death. To do someone’s banking and pay bills via the internet, you will need their passwords, which are not easily obtained by a third party. The best way to organize this information is to keep an actual folder with all of the accounts, user names and passwords. If there is a secret question that needs to be answered to get into the account, that should also be recorded.
Keeping track of everything solely on the computer can end up in disaster. Computers can have problems due to dust, age or power surges. A terrible event like a flood or fire can destroy equipment. Keeping a spreadsheet or word processing document is an excellent idea, but printing out a copy and keeping it in a file with your other important paperwork is recommended. There are some very good password managers, such as LastPass, where you only need to provide one password to open the manager to all of your passwords.
If you have cloud computing, copy the file into the cloud so you can access the information from any computer. Google offers limited free storage for people who have a gmail account, which is also free. Of course, you will need to know your gmail user name and password in order to get to it. If you do not have cloud computing, give a printout of the file or email the file to a trusted family member to open in case of emergency.
Having a written copy (discreetly stored) of all of your passwords and user names is important to keeping your information organized. You will be able to access everything yourself if you forget the password.