Building a "SHTF Kit"

(where “SHTF” is also known as “when the brown hits the round”)

My wife & I are preparing to go on a trip over the holiday, then we’ll be home for a bit, then I’m back on the road for work, then I’m going to a conference later in the year. Something that she’s been thinking about over the years, and I have as well, is answering the question “how do the bills get paid?”

Since we’ve been married, I’ve taken care of all of the financial stuff. Pay the bills, manage the accounts, keep track of anything related to money. I’ve got a system, and I’ve got all the details of how to get into the accounts in 1Password.

What we don’t have is the equivalent of a bug-out bag. If I get dusted by Thanos next week, how do the family finances get taken care of? And once we’re past keeping a roof over heads and putting food on the table, what else needs to be looked after? All our family photos? On my laptop with an encrypted hard drive. And backed up online, encrypted. Other documents? Contacts? My online identity (should someone post something on my blog and twitter saying “Gone Fishin’…Forever”)? Is the home network documented adequately, or at least adequately enough that a tech-savvy buddy can some to the house and iron it out?

To that end, I’ve started documenting things and I guess what I’m doing here is looking for help in prioritizing the list and making sure I have all the holes plugged. Maybe we can all help each other out. And this may even become a blog post as I’ve been short on material lately. Some of this documentation may not be 100%, hand it to a complete n00b and they’ll be able to fly the plane type stuff. But at least enough that the holder of the document, with some assistance from a couple friends, can get online.

It’s funny, as a DBA, part of my job is having this sort of thing taken care of for the company. The whole Bus Factor thing and such. But I set my environments up such that any reasonably competent DBA could get in, look around, and say “ok, he set this up in a pretty standard way, it’ll keep running for a few weeks while I suss out the company-specific bits here.”

And I’ve never done it for my family. Failure on my part. Our Bus Factor is one and that’s not OK.

What I have so far (bear in mind that my actual document has real names and specifics in it):

  • All bank accounts are at (credit union)
  • Online bill pay is set up for anything that requires a regular payment (more on this later) so all you have to do is put in the amount and date.
  • House stuff
    • Mortgage paid automatically on the 25th of every month from checking
    • Escrow (for taxes & insurance) is a separate savings account. $X is transferred from Checking to this account on the Xth day of each month
    • School tax bill arrives in September, town tax in January. Transfer money from Escrow to Checking, then send a check
    • Gas company is X. Bank receives an electronic bill and it’s automatically paid from Checking
    • Electricity company is Y. Same deal as gas
    • TV is (company), billed automatically to (credit card)
    • Water & sewer are billed separately by the town or county via snail mail. Accounts are set up in online bill pay, just go in and plug in the amount and hit Send
    • Internet is through (company). Billing notice comes to my email. Account is set up in online bill pay, just plug in the amount and Send
    • Car is financed through (company). Payment of $X is sent every month on the 5th. This is more than the minimum so it’s paid off quicker.
    • Trash is serviced by (company). Billed to (credit card) automatically.
  • Recurring bills and such
    • Insert list of credit cards here. All send statement notifications to my email, all are set up in online bill pay.
    • Insert list of scheduled transfers here. Monthly 529 plan contributions, diverting money to vacation savings every week, etc.
    • Insert list of subscription services here including which credit card is used for it. Dollar Shave Club, Wasabi, iCloud, Netflix etc.
  • Insurance policies
    • House and auto insurance through (company). Billing schedule for each. Notices emailed to my account.
    • Life insurance policies through (company) and (employer). Beneficiaries are X, Y & Z.
    • Health insurance, dental, vision plans
  • Retirement accounts
    • Rollover IRA with (company)
    • Current 401k with (company)
    • Spouse’s 401k with (company)
  • List of doctors & veterinarians
  • Where is it all?
    • Everything on my laptop including photos
  • How do I access this stuff?
    • 1Password
  • Online accounts
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Slack
    • WordPress

Still to do

  • URLs for all of the above
  • Location of wills, Power of Attorney, medical directive forms, etc.
  • Document the actual process of doing these things
  • Consolidate two-factor authentication codes into 1Password (currently split between Authy & 1Password)
  • How the home network is put together (it’s pretty simple, but if you don’t know that the black box the size of a deck of cards is the DHCP and DNS server and the router isn’t handing out IPs and is backing all port 53 traffic, you might have trouble getting online)
  • Document how to get into:
    • My computer
    • 1Password (1Password Emergency Kit)
    • My email accounts
    • My phone (because some two-factor authentications only work w/ SMS messages)
    • Our safe deposit box at the bank
  • Put this stuff someplace
    • Sealed envelope in our safe
    • Sealed envelope in our safe deposit box at the bank
    • PDF copy in 1Password (yes, I realize the stupidity of putting the combination to the safe inside the safe, but stay tuned)

Lower priority?

  • How backups work in case my laptop is inaccessible - such that they can be recovered elsewhere
  • Erasing various traces of me from the interwebs (close out online accounts)
  • Terminate subscription services no longer needed.

The criticality of 1Password on my computer will be lessened once I get us on the 1Password Family Plan and I can grant shared access to the family common Vault. Then, as long as one of us can get into our computer or phone, we’ve got the Vault.

Questions

  • Do I put actual account numbers in this document, or go with the assumption that whoever’s using it will be able to access the accounts online?
  • How far and wide do I scatter this document which cannot fall into the wrong hands? Do I go beyond the safe deposit box? I mean, if both the house and the bank go up in smoke and both of us are gone, chances are there’s no one left that will be affected by us not being around or able to execute on the documentation.
  • Do I put anything semi-humorous into it? Like “if my car is paid off, give it to , but he has to come to the funeral to retrieve it”?

So…please, poke holes in this, add things I’ve missed (because I know I’m not done yet), anything you can think of at all. Hopefully this helps others out too.

2 Likes

What about online shopping accounts? Do you have an amazon account that you buy books with, for example? ebooks that you want your family to have? What about online communities to get news of what happened, like us?

Luckily, when roommate went, I was the one who did all of the bills/finance stuff. I also knew him well enough to be able to either guess his passwords or get them reset. I was able to tell his Star Trek online community, but I hope that no one else is wondering where he disappeared to.

We have independent Amazon accounts. I think we can link them somehow but haven’t ever done so. The number of ebooks I’ve purchased is somewhere in the single digits and I’m not sure they’d want to read any of them. Her ebooks are all through Barnes & Noble but it’s a valid question to pose to her as well.

What about online communities to get news of what happened, like us?

That’s a good one and I have to decide what to do on a case-by-case basis. Stack Exchange, who really cares, right? I owe it to you guys to have a dead-man’s switch (which also leaves me wondering how much venting I’ve done over the years here that they’ll see if they peruse the post history). The other online communities I’m a member of will be mostly covered by posting to Twitter, my blog, and Slack - in fact, anything I post to my blog gets posted automatically to that Slack channel, so I’m double-covered there.

But this raises a good side question - should I have a list of people to contact in meatspace as well who my family may not even know about or think to contact? User group co-leader, close friends who are far-flung and they don’t have contact info for, etc.?

Talking through some of it with a co-worker a bit ago, I had another thought - maybe all of the family stuff shouldn’t flow through my email address but instead a common account that we both have access to. Thus eliminating my email account as a massive point of failure. Thing is, I don’t want to use GMail because Google is giving me the creeps lately. Maybe it’s worth creating an O365 account (paid) for us, which will get us email, MS Office apps, and whatever else. Or I sign up w/ fastmail.fm for the $3/month plan. Some of those accounts can’t be migrated to a new account, however. Again - take it one at a time and convert what I can.

Apple really needs to get the iCloud family sharing stuff sorted such that we can have a shared iCloud Photo Library.

All crap I should have thought about before setting off on two trips in the span of 2 weeks.

That is a very good idea.

I should do the same thing as well.

Friends/People to contact with news of my passing. I have a lot of friends - you guys included - that my husband doesn’t know, and I’d prefer they not think I just fell off the face of the earth. So a list of contact info for them - email, phone (if I have it).