Paper Organization 101: Financial Files

Whether you love record keeping or hate it, it is that time of year that we all have to do it; or at least, think about doing it. Pulling together tax documentation can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a simple formula for keeping financial paperwork throughout the year. Here are some tips for Paper Organization 101.

Keep in mind, when we work with our clients, we customize a filing system according to the individual’s personal needs. But there are some basic guidelines we can apply to all.

In general, you can start with short-term and long-term files. Short-term means one fiscal year, and can be purged annually after taxes (with the exception of items that will help support tax filing). Here is an example of what you might find in your short-term financial files:

  • Bills to Pay
  • Paid Bills
  • Bank Statements
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Health Records
  • Health Care Accounts
  • Receipts (may be kept long-term)
  • Business Expenses if applicable
  • Income Tax Records/Deductions/Income
  • Employment Records and Resumes
  • Pet Records

For long-term files, you generally are keeping things with a life span, such as policies, home ownership documents, etc.

  • Insurance Policies
  • Investment Titles and Statements
  • Major Purchase Receipts
  • Home Improvement Documentation
  • Titles of Ownership, home, car, property ownership, etc
  • Vital Docs i.e., birth certificates, SS Cards, passports, immunization records
  • Education Records and transcripts
  • Legal records like wills, power of atty, trusts, inheritance
  • Legal docs like marriage or divorce records
  • Tax returns and supporting documents for 7 years

These basics will cover the majority of your paperwork. You will find other categories as you begin to work through your piles. We want to be sure to recommend that you scan any long-term files that you can to reduce your paper load, keep a safe copy of your important records, and shred any unwanted papers that include your identifying info.

Happy tax season!






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Birdie Brennan Professional Organizers has been simplifying people’s lives since 2001. Birdie is a member of NAPO, a founding member of NAPO Ohio, in the Inaugural class of Certified Professional Organizers, a Golden Circle member and a member of ICD. It is our love for organization and design that led us to designing and installing closets.

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