It’s February. A full month of the New Year is gone already. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? Have you stuck with them?
Getting off track is so easy, despite our best intentions. But it’s not too late to make a change in 2016. Instead of (or in addition to) committing to the usual things like losing weight and saving money, commit to tackling a few big tasks that have likely languished on your to-do list for years. These tasks are so easy to procrastinate on and yet so important. So I propose to you that you make these 5 items your real resolutions for 2016.
1. Get a will
A survey by Rocket Lawyer found that 71% of Millennials (aged 18-34) and 42% of Baby Boomers (aged 55-64) don’t have a will. That’s a lot.
Like other things on this list, a will is something you don’t need at all and then you really, really need it; there’s no substitute. Without a will, the government determines what happens to your estate and assets when you die.
If you’re young and have no assets at all, there may be no urgency to get a will. But if you have assets (a house, some investments) and especially if you have kids, get one. A will not only lets you determine how you want your assets distributed, it also lets you name a guardian for your children below the age of majority (usually 18).
2. And get a living will
You may never have assets. You may never have dependents to leave assets to. But you will certainly die.
It can be hard to face that fact, but it makes it no less true. That’s why it’s a good reason to get a living will, also called an advance healthcare directive or advance directive. This document records your wishes for end-of-life care and can be used if you fall into a coma or are otherwise unable to speak for yourself when you’re very sick or close to death. Your loved ones will know whether you want to use breathing devices and feeding tubes to keep yourself alive, whether you want to donate organs or tissues, what kind of pain relief you want, and more.
Like a last will, a living will is a document you get less for yourself than for your loved ones. Having it can make their lives easier because they don’t have to try and guess what you would have wanted (and possibly disagree on it).
3. Make a plan to regularly back up your data
Let’s say your computer died – like, really died, gone, can’t-be-fixed died – right now. Would you be okay? Do you have all that vital information stored somewhere else, so that retrieving it would be a matter of simply finding it?
If you’re like most people, the answer is no. Despite all the easy and cost-effective solutions for backing up the data on our computers, the majority of people don’t do it regularly. A 2015 survey by Backblaze found that just 17% of people backup their data daily or weekly, another 58% just monthly or yearly, and a full 25% had never backed up their data at all. Are you one of them?
Your computer probably has lots of priceless photos on it that you could never get back if they were lost as well as music files, videos and movies, documents, and costly programs that would be a pain to replace. Since your computer could crash without warning, taking your data with it, it’s crucial to make a plan to back up your data regularly.
You can buy external hard drives and back up just the files you use regularly or create a bootable clone of your existing computer so that if it dies, you can create a replica on another computer. You don’t even need fancy software to do it; search “free backup software” online and you can find lots of reliable programs. All you need to pay for is the hardware.
If that’s all too complicated, go super simple and back up in the cloud. Backup services like Carbonite and CrashPlan offer plans starting at just $5/month to back up your data and you don’t have to be a techie to use it; it works in the background, making sure your data is stored safely in the cloud.
4. Make an emergency plan
You never know when an emergency could hit. Your home and family could be devastated by an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, flood, fire, or mudslide tomorrow. But since terrible disasters always seem like something that happen to other people, it’s easy to put off emergency preparedness. Make this the year you finally put your emergency plan together.
Visit Ready.gov to get information on making an emergency plan for your family.
5. Pack an emergency kit
Keep a larger emergency kit packed and ready to go plus a smaller one in your car. These are things you want to have ready at the drop of a hat in case disaster strikes.
Some items to include in your kit:
First aid kit and first aid manual
Flashlight and batteries (or battery-less flashlight)
Radio to get emergency broadcasts
Iodine tablets or similar for purifying water
Food that lasts a long time
Adjust the number of items depending on how many members you have in your family and don’t forget your pets’ needs, too.