Don’t put it off another day: It’s time to take control of your financial clutter. Not only will streamlining your financial records clear out desk and storage space—it’ll help you get organized and feel calmer. Set aside an hour a day for just three days for this important project and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your new, efficient system will start to take shape.
Kelley Keehn, a personal finance educator and author, offers these guidelines for simplifying your financial life:
What to Toss
Tax documents that are more than six years old.
Credit card statements, bills, and monthly bank slips, after checking for accuracy. You may want to take your streamlining one step further by going paperless with your bills—just be sure to set a reminder in your calendar to check your online statements every month.
Any unneeded documents that contain personal information like your address or account number. Use a shredder to protect your safety and privacy.
What to Keep
Important long-term documents like life insurance policies, investment statements and mortgage papers.
Copies of your personal ID, driver’s license, prescriptions and credit cards. Keep these in a secure place in your home and notify loved ones of their whereabouts so they can be easily accessed in the event of an emergency.
A list of professionals you deal with—think lawyer, doctor, financial planner, accountant, life insurance agent and banker—along with account numbers and contact information. Again, notify family members of the location in case of emergency.
Phone bills and other bills related to your home office, if you’re self-employed. Keep these with your tax documents for at least six years.
What to Get
A simple filing system to store and organize the documents you’re keeping. A pile of papers stuffed into a shoebox only makes things more difficult.
Any important long-term finance related documents that you don’t have copies of, like life insurance policies, investment statements or mortgage papers.
A handle on anything that may be missing, such as a will, power of attorney or living will. These will give you peace of mind and help ease the pain of grief for family members down the road.
A safety deposit or secure fireproof box in which to keep these important documents (with a copy to your lawyer and executor).
A CFP professional who can help with every step along the way. A professional financial planner can review your goals and create a big-picture plan to help guide you to a financially sound future.
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For more on taking control of your finances and how financial planning can help, read 6 ways to balance your financial priorities, Financial planning can help anyone at any life stage, and FAQ: financial planning.