To file, or not to file that is no longer the question. Knowing how long to keep your documents and which companies keep your records on file (allowing you to go digital) will make your busting-at-the-seams file cabinet and your “to be filed” pile a mess of the past. Having well-organized and relevant documents that are easily accessible will give you and your file cabinet peace of mind.
Your new organized life starts with separating your files and papers into three piles. Use the following guidelines to determine how to handle your documents:
- Permanent Pile:
- Health, medical, and vital records
- Estate plans, trusts, and wills
- Semi-permanent Pile:
- Receipts (until return policy expires)
- Auto records, home improvements, investment purchase records, mortgage (as long as you own)
- Insurance policies (through the statute of limitations)
- Investment sales records and tax records (seven years)
- Go Green/electronic Pile:
- ATM, banking, and credit card statements
- Pay stubs and resume
- Utility bills and miscellaneous bills
Now that you have three piles, it is time to do some additional research on the Internet. Read the fine print and call companies with questions regarding their document-retrieval policies. Check with your accountant, tax advisor, or significant other before discarding anything in question. Once you have all your questions answered, gather the “to be filed” items, take a seat next to your file cabinet, and organize!
- Invest. Buy a file cabinet that fits your needs, along with straight tab file folders.
- Label. Write each folders’ contents (e.g., Health Insurance) in pencil to allow for changes, and alphabetically place into your file cabinet.
- Store. Place permanent documents in a fireproof container or a safe-deposit box at your financial institution, and shred unnecessary documents to protect you from potential hazards, such as identity theft.