In order to get our finances together we've got to get the related "stuff" together. This is so important but often overlooked. In our quest to improve our financial lives, take a close look at your everyday operational practices. Simple adjustments can make big improvements!
Get control of the paperwork!
There are statements, receipts, and other artifacts that are a part of a healthy personal financial system. These include bank statements, paycheck stubs, W2‘s, purchase receipts, service invoices, bills, discount coupons and insurance declarations and riders. Without taking the time to properly manage these items they can easily end up in various hiding places that can make it challenging to be timely in getting bills paid and completing IRS income tax filings. It never fails that at the end of every year when the holiday decorations go up and family starts to arrive, I go off my routine of dealing with mail and placing these documents in their designated places. If you currently have a system to store and manage these documents, recommit to operate in this system and take this time to get things back in order. Create new files as needed for additional items that you’ve found should be tracked separately. A test that I use is if I can’t tell someone where to locate a document in less than 3 minutes it needs to have a better and more identifiable home.
A simple system that I use for my active paper documents is to store them in semi-opaque plastic food storage containers with lids. I place a visible label inside these containers to note it’s contents and stack these neatly in my home office closet. The containers are inexpensively sold in multipacks in the kitchen storage section at your favorite department store. I have active boxes for several categories including unpaid bills, paid bills, bank statements, insurance docs, flex spending receipts, dependent care, tax documents, investment statements and coupons/gift certificates. At the end of the year I store the full container of docs in gallon size zip-top bags which I label appropriately. Getting your paper records organized does not have to cost a lot of money!
Don't forget the digital assets!
Review the financial online archive policies and your personal record retention needs.
With each of our financial partners, we have the option to “go green” and eliminate paper. Many of the statements and receipts that you get today can be delivered to you digitally or available online. If you take advantage of paperless for any financial documents that you are required to keep you will need to ensure that you have a method to reproduce these docs at will. This involves knowing how long you should retain the document and compare this to the online and archive retention policy of your financial partner. If you will need to maintain your health care receipts for 7 years for tax audit reasons but but you can only see your pharmacy receipts for 24 months you will need to develop a plan to mitigate this difference. If you store your digital receipts on your computer how will you recover this data if your computer hard-drive dies or your computer is stolen? Make a list of the length of time you are required to maintain key receipts and statements and include on that list how you’re going to make sure that you’re covered. Fill in the gaps of things that are not stored online for long periods of time by downloading them to your computer and ensuring that you’re backing this data up for safe keeping. I find that this is a must for my post-tax monthly online brokerage statements
Let this be a call to action. Successful individuals tend to be organized and deliberate in their actions. That's you and me. Let's GO!! (Get Organized)
Do you see a man who excels in his work?
He will stand before kings...
Proverbs 22:29 NKJV