Organize Your Financial Documents with These 10 Helpful Categories - Rodgers & Associates

Organize Your Financial Documents with These 10 Helpful Categories

Can you quickly locate last year’s income tax return? Do you have the contents of your wallet and your account infor­mation recorded somewhere in case it is stolen? Can you find your homeowners insurance policy? If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to these three questions – don’t panic – but you may need to take some important steps towards getting organized.
The benefits of organizing your records include simpli­fying your finances, reducing stress, being prepared for unexpected events and having more time for fun activ­ities. You will need to identify what to keep, who will maintain the records, where to keep items and when your files should be updated. Most impor­tantly, commu­nicate to a family member or friend what you have done so they can help if needed.
I recommend the following 10 categories to separate your documents (with examples):
1. Financial Management – bank state­ments, credit card infor­mation, loans records
2. Invest­ments – stocks and bonds, IRAs, savings bonds
3. Income Tax Infor­mation – tax returns, supporting documents including chari­table gifts
4. Insurance and Annuity Documents – original policies and recent statements
5. Estate Documents – wills, powers of attorney, trusts, living wills
6. Legal Documents – real estate settle­ments, birth/marriage/divorce records, passports
7. Employment and Military Records – employee benefits, military service and discharge papers
8. Home Records – major renovation receipts, appraisals, list or video of home contents
9. Medical History – doctors, current medica­tions, allergies, summaries of recent appointments
10. Leave a Legacy – personal letter of instruction, family history, wishes for family members

If you have made it this far you are probably wondering what you can get rid of or how long to keep old records. While there are many opinions on this matter, here are my guide­lines. Please err on the side of caution if you think you want to hang on to something longer.
Keep 7 Years – Year-end bank/brokerage/retirement state­ments, cancelled checks, credit card state­ments, major expense documen­tation, income tax returns and supporting documents.
Keep Until Disposal — Home improvement records, cost basis of invest­ments, vehicle titles, service contracts/warranties, real estate deeds and settlement sheets, loan state­ments, stocks, bonds and CDs.
Keep Until Updated — Listing of safe deposit box contents, monthly bank state­ments, quarterly retirement and pension state­ments, list of credit card numbers, annual insurance policy state­ments and inventory of household items.
Every­thing else should be kept perma­nently. If you have a large volume of files you should definitely consider scanning and saving to your computer or other hard drive to save space. Permanent records should be kept in a safe deposit box or a fire-resistant safe. All other documents should be kept in an easy to access file. All documents scanned to computers should be backed up regularly.
Once all of your hard work and planning is complete, don’t forget to commu­nicate where things are to someone else!