The lost-wallet recovery plan
Losing your wallet can disrupt your life. Here's how to prepare for that eventuality.
In this inaugural post in the Financial Contingency Plan series, I want to discuss one of the most common financial disasters -- losing your wallet.
Whether you carry a money clip, an actual wallet, or an entire purse, losing it is one of the most demoralizing financial events that can happen to a person. Your wallet is a compartmentalization of your financial identity and contains your driver's license, your cash, any credit and debit cards, your photos, insurance information, and other financial tidbits.
This is what you need to do to prepare for and recover from a lost wallet.
Preparing for a lost wallet:
- The first step in preparing for a lost wallet is to remove everything you don't need on a daily basis. You want to avoid a Costanza-style wallet where you keep every last receipt, business card and scribbled note you ever received. Every day, clean out the junk you don't actually need. You should not have any gift cards, business cards to restaurants you like, or receipts. File those away if you need to keep them, or recycle them.
- Next, take your Social Security card out of your wallet. Way too many people keep this crucial document in their wallet when there's absolutely no need for it. You will never need your Social Security card without knowing beforehand (you should have your own Social Security number memorized though). Take out any blank checks too; they contain your account number.
- Scan or photograph every item in your wallet. The last thing you want is having to remember what you had in your wallet whenever you lost it. That's why I recommend taking a picture of everything at least once every three months, or more often if you're especially ambitious, so that you don't have to remember. This will also give you a list of things to do if you do lose your wallet.
- Keep at least one backup credit or debit card outside of your wallet. If you lose your wallet, you'll be canceling every credit and debit card you had in the wallet. This will leave you without access to those funds for a few days as new cards are mailed to you. You need to keep a backup card on a different account so you won't be stuck for those few days.
Losing your wallet sucks. You should spend a bit of time trying to find it, but if you can't locate it after a day (or after eight hours anyway), it's time to prepare for the reality that you've lost your wallet for good.
After you've lost your wallet:
- Get your list of contents and start calling everyone on that list. Cancel your credit and debit cards, and inform them about your missing wallet. If someone stole your wallet, it won't take much time for them to start using those cards. While you are protected by federal consumer protection laws, you can save yourself a lot of time by preventing fraud in the first place (who wants to wait on hold to talk to a fraud specialist?).
- Call your Department of Motor Vehicles to inform them of a lost license. Chances are you'll need to make a trip to your DMV in order to get a new license to replace the one you've lost. Be sure to bring all the required documents and be prepared to wait a bit.
- Keep an eye on your credit report. Your driver's license has a lot of information on it -- the type an identity thief would love to have. If it also includes your Social Security number (or if you left your SS card in your wallet), there's enough information for a thief to make a nice clone, so you'll want to put a security alert on your report with the bureaus. If you are especially cautious, you could get a credit freeze.
That should prepare you in the event you lose your wallet. Are there tips that you use that I missed for this financial contingency plan?
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