|Rich Best has spent 28 years in the financial services industry, as an advisor, a managing partner, directors of training and marketing, and now as a consultant to the industry. Rich has written extensively on a broad range of personal finance topics and is published on several top financial sites. Recent books include The American Family Survival Bible and Annuity Facts Revealed: What You MUST Know Before You Invest.|
How to Create Order out of Chaos with Your Financial Records
It should not take the filing of a tax return or a death in the family to finally create order out of paper chaos so you are not forced to scramble in those critical circumstances. The chances of making costly errors are too great not to take some very simple, albeit essential, measures to get and stay organized all year long. Today you can begin a system of document disposition which will simplify your financial life for you and your family. It starts with knowing what you need to keep, for how long and where to keep them - beginning with the most disposable:
Keep for a week or less
Keep for a month
Keep for a year
Keep for 7 years
Legal documents (physical copies)
Any physical document that is evidence of a legal proceeding, activity or occurrence should be maintained in a secure location such as a fire-proof and theft-proof safe or a bank safety box. While you may find it convenient to scan copies for digital storage, a physical copy should always be maintained and accessible by family members. This includes:
A word about Shredding
First, not everything of financial concern needs to be shredded. Generally, if it doesn't contain an account number or your Social Security number it doesn't have to be shredded. Still, anything that can fall into the hands of another person can present a privacy risk. Otherwise, shredding your documents using a cross-cut shredder is a must for identity-theft protection.
A word about record-keeping in the cloud:
Depending on the type of record and the online storage used, record-keeping in the cloud can be as safe, or safer than storing a physical copy. However, any document that must be maintained for 7 years or longer should be kept in physical form in a secure location.
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