When it comes to your finances, it seems there are documents for everything. From credit card statements, insurance policies, tax forms, and more, how can you determine which documents are the most important and where they should be put away? An ideal system will give you the flexibility of having everyday documents nearby while still giving you peace of mind for those extra important documents. Essentially, it comes down to a system of three storage types: your home filing system, your personal computer, and a safe deposit box.
Safe Deposit Box
The safe deposit box is a private storage at a bank or other financial institution. It should be where you store the absolute most valuable documents. Valuables that are difficult to replace should also be kept securely stored away.
Documents pertaining to personal information should be kept safe for the rest of your life. This includes birth, marriage and death certificates. For parents, this includes records for your children as well as adoption papers for adopted children. Military papers and badges, if you or your spouse did service, should also be kept safe. Lastly, citizenship/residency papers and the social security card also are part of personal information you want to keep in a safety deposit box.
Financial and Property Information
Certificates of Deposits (CoDs) as well as a list of your checking and savings accounts for emergency situations should be kept here. For property, titles and deeds cannot stay at home; they should be stored in a safe deposit box.
Home Filing System
The home filing system will allow you to keep important, but commonly used, documents nearby. There are many ways to organize your home system and it may seem difficult to determine which documents should be stored. Provided is a 10-folder system you can consider.
Folder 1: Banks
Bank statements from checking and savings accounts come to mind, but these aren’t the only kind of documents associated with banks. Don’t forget to include other valuable documents such as checkbooks, unused and canceled checks, and notes about how many deposit boxes you have and where they are located – don’t divulge too much though.
Folder 2: Credit Cards and Credit Spending
Credit cards allow us to pay for things we plan to pay off later on. They are therefore very dangerously capable of leading to debt, and you most certainly don’t want others to use your credit cards. Keep unused credit cards in this folder rather than elsewhere. Additionally, you should have payment books, credit-card related receipts, statements, and a record of all the people that can use your credit card account.
Folder 3: Purchases and Cars
Many items we purchase are expensive. It is imperative to keep warranty information in an easy location – such as this folder. Keep your receipts, car registration, and repair records. You may also consider keeping manuals for cars and other expensive items here just in case.
Folder 4: Personal Insurance
An insurance is only as good as the coverage it gives you. Keep all of your policies together along with a handy reference list of your premium amounts. For any claims you may have made, keep records. If you have medical insurance, you may want to consider keeping medical records here too.
Folder 5: Homeowning and Renting
Homeowners need to keep a lot of documents nearby: Homeowner insurance records, property tax documents, home repair records and receipts, and leases given out if you are renting out space.
For those who are renting a place, having a copy of your lease and renting policies would be valuable.
Folder 6: Investing
Investing requires an enormous amount of records. You need to keep track of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds you bought and sold. Other documents to file include dividend records, broker fee statements, as well as contact information of brokers and other contacts.
Folder 7: Seniority
If you’re thinking about the far future, you need a folder to keep your information handy. You might have a will. You might also be planning for your future financial security. This means keeping records of pension plans, IRA statements, and social security benefits.
Folder 8: Work
To ensure your financial future, you will most likely need to work. You therefore need your current employment information and benefits package. Having your most up-to-date resume and social security number stored could be handy to keep around. Lastly, a (valid) copy of a birth certificate might be needed for certain jobs and job benefits, so it’s good to have one here as well – though you should also keep a valid copy in the safe deposit box as mentioned before.
Folder 9: Taxes
Keep all of your tax data here. For US persons, this means W-2s, 1099s, and W-9s if you have any. Records of tax-deductible items and purchases as well as other taxable incomes should filed as well. Lastly, keep past tax records in case you are ever audited. You should at least keep 4 years’ worth of tax returns, though you may want to keep more. Seven years is a good number to aim for.
Folder 10: Money Management and Goals
The last folder (or first, depending on how you file) should include money management information. Your financial plan, budget, balance sheets, income statement sheets are all unofficial documents worth having around for easy reference.
The last part of a good filing system is to have computer records. You might make budgets, wills, balance statements and other documents on your computer and should therefore save backups of these documents even after you print them. Using a scanner, you may also want to have digital copies of receipts and other documents you may need to look up but don’t want to have to drag out of the home filing system. If you also use tax returns or other kinds of financial software, you will want to keep a backup of the final summaries they provide you.