Our digital lives are hyper-expanding. Where we once had a modest number of online accounts, the average person now has 90 and that number is projected to double every five years, according to Dashlane. With that many portals to access and passwords to remember, it’s a wonder we can keep it all straight. Actually, we can’t. Dashlane says that the average number of “forgot password” emails per inbox sits at 37. That’s almost half of the accounts each person owns.
These accounts house important digital assets, some of which hold monetary value like airline miles or domain names. They can also be of sentimental value such as photo albums and personal emails. Smart phone apps are considered part of your digital worth as well because, same as a song or movie, they represent money you spent or time you’ve invested building value within the app.
Take Pokémon GO, a relatively new app that has people roaming parking lots, parks and private venues to capture virtual Japanese cartoon characters. Players are spending incredible amounts of time on these monster hunts and, given the scarcity of some of the creatures, collecting them is quite desirable and even valuable – not unlike other collectibles.
Because of the value of these assets – whether intrinsic or perceived – it’s necessary to keep track of them. Each account might not seem that valuable, but there’s a cumulative effect, meaning you might have more than you think. According to a study from the Retirement Income Program at The American College (via Passare), the average value of online assets for every Internet user in America is nearly $55,000. To offer a broader perspective – an entire country’s worth of digital asset accumulation – United Kingdom consumers value their digital assets at a sum total of £25 billion, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) white paper, “The Value of a Digital Life.” PwC estimates that the average person owns 42 e-books, 30 TV shows, 2,678 individual songs and 28 digital films, items that comprise only a fraction of the digital assets that exist.
The concern raised in this article is that we’re not doing enough to protect these assets, nor are we communicating with our loved ones about their existence. Of those surveyed, 54% said their partner would not be able to access their digital media if they died and 75% said the same about their children. That’s a lot of personal assets lost.
If you want to pass down your prized Pikachu (and your Bitcoin wallet), you need to make a plan. The best way to start is by utilizing a secure estate planning service like LegacyShield, so you can begin corralling your digital accounts — all 90 of them. You may be surprised by just how much of your life you’ve lived online.