Storing Important Documents: Checklist And Tips

Trying to figure out how and where to store those important documents? Here's a checklist with a few helpful hints and tips.

Paperwork! Paperwork! Paperwork! Is paperwork driving you crazy? Is the paperwork at your house spread all over the kitchen table, stuffed in a bedroom drawer, or piled to the ceiling on your computer desk? You can't locate an important paper when you need it? Or, have you hoarded every piece of paper you've ever received? Do you still have receipts for diapers and your children are grown? Don't fret. You can still figure out what to do with all those papers! Here's a helpful checklist and some terrific tips to assist you with understanding how to store your important documents.


1. Gather ALL pertinent paperwork and place together in one area.

Tip: Utilize a large plastic container, a big basket, or even a cardboard box for this job. All you are trying to do at this point is to make sure your paperwork is in only one area.

2. Sort paperwork into various categories. Here are a few examples and a helpful tip about each:

Big Tip: Schedule yourself some time to work on this project. Schedule a few minutes of each day to deal with all of your papers. If you'd rather, schedule a few hours for a couple of days. Do what works for you!


Tip: It is very important that you keep any home improvement receipts along with the original mortgage contract. You may want to consider placing mortgage contracts in a safety deposit box at your bank.

*Loan(s)/Promissory Note(s)

Tip: Keep the original loan or promissory note. Keep the monthly loan or promissory note statements until the end of the year. At year end, request the lender to provide you with any specific tax information you may need to file your tax return.

*Car Loan(s)

Tip: Keep the original auto loan note or receipt if you've paid for a vehicle in cash.

Keep all monthly statements until the end of the year. Request the lender to provide you with any pertinent loan information when you are ready to file your tax return.

*Car Title(s)

Tip: Keep your original car title. Be sure to have any liens removed when you have paid an auto loan in full. A car title without a lien "¦ wow! You will need this information when you decide to sell your vehicle.

*Bank Statement(s)

Tip: Keep statements through the end of the year and then review them. You may want to keep any statements that contain mortgage or business related items. Today, there are many banks which offer online or paperless services. It's a great way to reduce the amount of papers you have to handle! Plus, you have the convenience of checking your bank account 24 hours a day.

*Credit Report(s)

Tip: Review your credit report(s) at least annually. Do you have accounts that are still open that you thought had been closed? Do you think there has been possible fraud? If so, contact your credit bureau and request an investigation into any discrepancy you find.

*Birth Certificate(s)

Tip: You will want to make sure that you have copies of your birth certificate(s) for such things as school enrollment or traveling. A birth certificate is another important document that you may want to consider placing into your safety deposit box. Make sure that you have extra copies at home.

*Marriage Certificate(s)

Tip: Your marriage certificate may also be something you'd like to keep in your safety deposit box. Make a copy of your marriage certificate to display at home.

*Divorce Decree(s)

Tip: Along with your divorce decree, be sure to keep any documentation regarding spousal and/or child support.

*Household Utilities (electric, water, sewer, gas, trash)

Tip: Keep monthly statements of all utilities until paid. You will then have a permanent record of all your payments with receipts or cancelled checks.

*Credit Card Statements

Tip: Keep your credit card statements for 60 days in case you need to dispute a claim. Remember that all monies owed are due except for the amount in dispute. Pay your credit cards ON TIME in order to avoid hikes in interest rates and late fees.

*Paycheck Stub(s)

Tip: Keep all paycheck stub(s) until the end of the year when you receive your W-2.

At the end of the year, you will need to review your paycheck stubs and your W-2. If there is any discrepancy, contact your employer. Many employers list sick time, vacation time, and retirement on your paycheck stubs. Review this information EVERY pay period. If it is incorrect, contact the payroll department of your employer immediately.

*Social Security Statements and Information

Tip: Keep your social security number safe. You do not want to become a victim of identity theft because someone has obtained your social security information. You do not have to give this information to a store clerk. Also, if your social security number is used by an insurance company or your employer as an ID number, ask how they safeguard your personal information. Memorize your number and DON"T carry a social security card!

*Insurance Policies (auto, life, health, homeowner)

Tip: You may wish to keep your insurance policies in your safety deposit box. You may also wish to keep a copy of them at your home office. Review your budget annually to see if you possibly need to increase your insurance coverage. Do you have extra liabilities at your home like a swimming pool? Perhaps you need to reduce some of your insurance costs. Can you raise your deductibles and lower your premium? And, as far as life insurance, are you the main income provider? Do you have ENOUGH life insurance? Many financial gurus suggest anywhere from FOUR to TEN TIMES your annual income.

*Retirement Account(s)

Tip: Keep your monthly statements. When you receive your quarterly statements, you may discard the prior monthly statements. You should receive tax information at the end of the year for all of your retirement accounts. Make these available to your tax accountant.

*Stocks/Bonds/Mutual Funds/CD's

Tip: Keep your monthly statements. Review at the end of the year when you receive your annual reports. These items will also need to be made available to your tax accountant.

*Medical (including advanced health care directive)

Tip: Medical costs can be a deduction when you file taxes, but you will need to check the IRS guidelines for the specifics on medical deductions. Keep all your medical receipts. If you've been in the hospital, be sure to ask for a complete, itemized bill. When you receive it "¦ review every line!


Tip: You may wish to keep your passport in your safety deposit box. Don't forget to remove it before traveling!


Tip: You need a will. If you cannot afford an attorney to prepare one, look for the various types of legal forms at any large office supply store. Make sure someone knows where your will is!

*Tax Return(s)

Tip: The IRS has three years to audit returns. But, if you have not filed taxes or you have a fraudulent return, then the IRS has NO timeline it is required to follow. Be sure to report accurately on your taxes every year. Having a good CPA assist you with filing your tax returns is certainly a great investment.


Tip: You may have other bills that have not been categorized. If you can, please make a category for them. If not, as a last resort, use a miscellaneous category.

Safety deposit boxes are usually available at your bank. There are different sizes and costs for these boxes. The next time you go to the bank, if you don't already have a safety deposit box, ask about getting one. Review the rules regarding safety deposit boxes.

3. Organize your paperwork. Alphabetically, in categories you can remember, or whatever works for you!

Tip: Organization - a place for everything and everything in its place. Take advantage of that saying and spend some time organizing your paperwork. There are many ways you can organize your household paperwork. You can use a large three-ring binder with dividers, or a filing cabinet with hanging files. Many office supply stores offer various types of organizers, accordion files, and even fire proof safes!

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