Organizing and Keeping Financial Records and Personal Documents: How and Why

Posted by Fitz Villafuerte under Personal Finance on January 3, 2009

If you want to take control of your financial life, then you need to learn how to properly organize and keep your financial records and personal documents.

I know some people who actually don’t like filing such papers but I believe that it’s really a necessary task if one wants to move ahead financially.

Putting your personal and financial files in order is not a difficult task. It may seem daunting at first and perhaps boring, but once you get the hang of it, filing your records will be easy and you’ll soon find it actually rewarding.

So what exactly are the financial records and personal documents you should file and manage? How do you organize them? Furthermore, where and for how long do you keep them?

The first thing you need to do is make a checklist of everything. Here are the usual documents you need to organize:

  • Personal papers such as your birth certificate, baptismal paper, diplomas and training certificates, marriage license, passport, etc.
  • Billing statements for your utilities, credit cards and other monthly expenses.
  • Salary or payment slips, tax records, employment certificates and other work related documents.
  • Deeds and titles of all the properties you own such as real estate, vehicles, jewelries and others.
  • Insurance and medical policies, social security statements, retirement plans and other benefit contracts including the name and contact details of the agents and companies which issued them.
  • Financial records such as bank statements, issued checks, stock and bonds certificates and other paper assets.
  • Manuals, receipts and warranties of purchases specially those for your appliances and gadgets.
  • A ledger of your expenses which also includes debt and loans documentation and a summary of all your liabilities.
  • Special financial documents such as your Personal Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Monthly Budget Worksheets
  • Your will and trust documentation including a durable power of attorney and a clear and legal statement of your wishes in the event of your death.

After writing these down, start to look and organize them in envelopes or folders. Arrange your documents such as billings statements and other financial records chronologically. Remember to properly label them and write a master document or worksheet that lists and explains each and every record you have.

Some of your financial records and personal documents may be electronic. Make a back-up of these and save them in a portable hard disk, flash drive, CD or DVD. It may also be wise to save a list of all your internet accounts, specially for those that have financial transactions such as your banking portals and Paypal.

When you have everything organized, keep them in a secure location. You may opt to put them in a fire-proof safe or deposit them in the bank. Personally, I just have them in a locked briefcase inside my room with duplicate copies in my parent’s safe.

financial-records

Your financial records and personal documents should not just lay there and gather dust for the next few years. You would need to manage them and keep it updated. At least once a month, add your recent statements and new documents and receipts. Moreover, take note of policies and other records that will soon expire so you can renew them on time.

How long should you keep financial records such as credit card statements, receipts and tax documents?

For sales and credit card receipts, I usually keep them for 3 months or up until they check out against by billing statements and have recorded them in my personal ledger. For appliance and gadget manuals and warranties, I keep them as long as the item is still working.

For payment slips, bank statements, utility bills and other similar documents, I retain 3 years worth of transactions. Others such as tax documents, deeds, insurance and investment policies – I keep indefinitely.

Why should you organize and keep your financial records?

  1. It saves time. You know exactly where to look when you really need them.
  2. It will be easier to claim insurance, warranties and dispute errors when you have complete and orderly records, thus saving you money.
  3. It helps you keep track of your financial progress.

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Photo courtesy of mythabby

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10 Responses to “Organizing and Keeping Financial Records and Personal Documents: How and Why”


  1. Mighty says:

    Nice article Fitz. 🙂 I have started filing my bills and other personal records but I still have much to learn. But I have learned to track my expenses for the past four months. It’s amazing when you understand just where your money go to.

    Galing ng blog mo bro! daming tips! 🙂

  2. Fitz says:

    Hi Mighty, yes I agree, there’s really a sense of self-fulfillment when you understand how cash flows through your life. And it’s very rewarding as time goes.

    Salamat sa pag-comment. 😀

  3. jan says:

    Very comprehensive post. It just occurred to me – is there a special folder or envelope for records of online earnings such as from adsense, kontera, etc? 🙂

  4. Fitz says:

    Hi Jan, I maintain an Excel file to track all my online earnings. Not only does it give me a record of all my internet income, but it also provides a way for me to monitor and evaluate what works for me and what doesn’t. And then of course, all the online income gets an entry inside my personal ledger. 😀

  5. Rich Life Carnival #27 | Rich Life Carnival says:

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  7. I had made an excel worksheet for this year to track all my online expenses and earning so that I can really evaluate how much really I am earning online compare to offline..

    Nice article fitz.. Keep it up

  8. Nice tips! As for me, my blog has been one of the living witness on tracking my income and expenses.

    I also keep some important documents such as bank statements, investment policies, etc.

  9. […] you can also do paper work. It is a place where you can sit down, read and write, do some thinking, organize your financial documents, sort through your bills and do other serious […]

  10. Windjammer2 says:

    KEEP YOUR EARNINGS RECORDS FOREVER!
    Eventually everyone will want to confirm their earnings records with data at Social Security. If there are errors and you do not have proof of earnings you will be S.O.L.

    Trust this advice… I worked for SSA for over 15 years and have had to try to reconcile my own earnings records. You just HAVE TO keep these records unless you are willing to be a victim of record keeping errors or the failure of long-past employers who failed to report your earnings to SSA.

    This “keep for 7 years” advice is wrong but is still spread by virtually all financial advisors.

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