Organizing your Hard Copy Files
I’m a big fan of electronic delivery of statements and bills for saving trees and reducing clutter. Even so, I maintain hard copy files as well. As part of my own new year’s organizational projects, I’ve updated my files recently. Below are some of my tips to help you maintain your hard copy files!
Keep it simple. Sticking to the broad categories of Banks, Investments, Insurance, etc. instead of breaking it down into subcategories or specific accounts helps keep the hard copy files easier to maintain on an on-going basis. You might change banks or add a new utility—why make a new folder?
Match your credit and store cards to your credit report. Check your credit report to see which credit cards and store cards you ought to have in your possession (and check that you do!). Everything else on the credit report should have a closed date and some kind of remark that it was closed by consumer, purchased by another lender, etc. This is also a good opportunity to make sure your credit report is correct. Remember that debit cards are not listed on your credit report. Pre-paid debit cards, however, may be listed.
Update as you go. If your credit card expired and you were sent a replacement put your new card information in your file right away. Just peel the card off the paper it was mailed in and on it write your card number, expiration date, security code and the customer service contact numbers from the back and put it in the file. Done. The only thing to worry about then is that gummy goo sticking to other pages.
Add in a folder for your executor. If you’re maintaining hard copy files for the ease of your executor after you die, be sure to include your important contacts like your CPA or attorney and contents of your safe deposit box along with copies of your legal documents. I also include a letter of instruction on how bills are paid so my house can be maintained if I become incapacitated.
Get ready to shred. After you’ve replaced your file with statements or policies that are new or different, you’ll want to shred the old documents. If you don’t have your own shredder, check your local UPS, Staples or FedEx locations if they take documents for shredding. They charge per pound, but then your hard copy file organization is done for another year!