Keeping your financial records safe

I helped my mother move about a year ago. Prior to moving she wanted to clean out her file cabinet that had become so congested that it was coughing out papers every time you opened a drawer. She is a fantastic record-keeper, but her record retention policy was a little excessive. Not only were her tax returns available back to the 1970s, but my deceased grandparent’s returns were also neatly filed. She had ALL her bank records, including passbook savings from my childhood. She had payroll stubs, Social Security notices, and investment statements. So, we hauled out the shredder and got a handle on the filing infection before the move.

Related to this situation is a question that I got from a client before they left for their summer home in another state. They asked what records they needed to take with them. They were used to packing up a briefcase of paperwork, shoving it in the trunk of the car, and (almost) never pulling it out in the five months that they were gone. They were considering flying and really did not want to take anything that they didn’t need.

These situations got me to thinking about what I should do with my own financial records. I’ve got my fair share of paper records but a lot of records are on my home computer that I admittedly do not back-up as often as I should. So I’ve been considering my options and have settled on a scanner and a USB flash drive.

Scanners have really improved. I have a very small scanner on my desk that copies the front and back with one pass. One of my colleagues scans every piece of important mail as he comes into the house, electronically files it, and throws the paper copy away. If I could adopt that routine, paper clutter would substantially decrease at our house!

Flash drives are virtually indestructible and easily transportable. This will make it easier to go between the home computer, the laptop and the office. Unfortunately, they are also easy to misplace, so I’ll have to attach it to an obnoxiously colored keychain (maybe with a little bling) and hang it on the wall away from the mischievous pets.

So, I have a plan that should keep my records safe, easily move with me, and substantially cut down on paper files – now I just need to time to implement it. National Clean Off Your Desk Day is the second Monday in January. Not sure I can or should wait that long!

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