Updated: January 1, 2020
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.
Financial and legal documents that 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.
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.
Meanwhile, 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?
First, it saves time. You know exactly where to look when you really need them.
Second, it will be easier to claim insurance, warranties, and dispute errors when you have complete and orderly records.
And third, it helps you keep track of your financial progress.