It’s springtime! The chaos of the holidays is long gone, spring break is over and summer hasn’t arrived yet. Excuses are easy to come by, when summer is in full-swing, so why not take advantage of this temporary lull and get your files in order now? It doesn’t matter if they are on your computer, the cloud or in print, you need a system that you can follow easily.
If you are like me, there is still far too much mail coming into the house, and I don’t have time to read it all every day, so I keep three large baskets and use them as my first order of separation. One is for shredding, one for recycle, and one for action needed/ filing.
Not as many as there once was!
On my computer and/or in file drawer:
- Bills Due: Unless you need them for tax purposes, pay them and shred them. You can usually get a copy if you really need one later.
- Insurance policies: Keep a file for each, and shred the old when you get your renewal.
- Medical: Pay and shred the bills. Most providers can give you a copy of services if requested. Keep medical information, such as prescriptions or medical conditions, diagnosis and such.
- Taxes/Tax Deductible Expenses/Donations: I drop everything into one folder all year and then organize them for my taxes in January. Keep receipts and mileage. I keep tax returns for 7 years.
- Manuals: This file is much smaller than it used to be, as most of this info is available on-line now, so I don’t have stacks of bulky booklets. But I still keep the ones I know I will need. I use a large Ziploc to keep everything intact, and file them in a hanging folder. (Recycle the ones that are outdated).
- Bank Statements: One year is long enough, IF you still get them in the mail.
- Financial Statements: Keep year-end statements to track activity for tax purposes.
HAVE A CENTRAL LOCATION FOR ALL YOUR IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS AND ACCOUNT INFORMATION.
If your documents are stored in several locations around the house, you may not be able to grab them all fast enough to get you, your family and the documents out of the house in case of emergency. The thought of losing photos of my children is heartbreaking, but losing their original birth certificates upsets me even more.
MAKE A LIST OF EMERGENCY CONTACTS.
If you became seriously ill, had an accident, or needed any kind of assistance, would your caretaker (or even first responders) be able to contact family, friends or clergy? It is important to have a single location that has the names, phone numbers and addresses of the people you want contacted.
KEEP AN INVENTORY OF YOUR ASSETS AND LIABILITIES.
Sit down and make a list of the assets/ accounts you own, their location, account numbers, contact phone numbers, addresses and due dates. Could someone else step in and easily pay your bills for you without knowing what you owe and to whom? Also, consider storing copies of important documents including wills, birth certificates, legal documents and immunization records inside an “online” vault. The right service will allow you to access these documents immediately, and most importantly, will have sophisticated security systems to alleviate concerns that others could obtain access to your confidential information. If you are not comfortable with on-line, get a fire-proof safe, or a safe deposit box at a bank.
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Sandy Derby, CFP®, ChFC LPL Financial Advisor, VP Southwest Michigan Region 5003 Century Ave Kalamazoo, MI 49006 269-459-0474 TM