Organizing Your Paperwork
Keeping your paperwork organized has obvious benefits. After all, who wants to look at unruly stacks of bills that could instead be stored neatly out of sight? But having a place for everything isn’t just about aesthetics. Being disorganized can create extra work and subject you to late fees. The following strategies will help you bring order to your receipts, bills, and statements.
Leaving things scattered around the house is a sure-fire way to lose them, which is the reason financial experts recommend creating a command centre. Ideally, this area — whether a desk or another dedicated work space — should encompass an ample surface, a computer, in-boxes for unpaid bills, files for long-term storage, a paper shredder, and office supplies. Other essentials include a comfortable chair and an appealing setting, because if you don’t want to sit there, chances are you won’t want to work there.
The beauty of a 12-month filing system is that at the end of the year, you can simply mark the year on the box or the file, and place it on a shelf. There are, however, a few documents that should be stored separately — and indefinitely — including medical bills and claims, tax returns, investment records (such as year-end statements for retirement accounts), anything pertaining to property and valuables (including mortgage contracts and assessments), and legal documents (such as wills and those pertaining to estate planning). Make copies of these and other irreplaceable documents, including deeds, titles, stock and bond certificates, and certificates of deposit, and store the originals in a fire-resistant safe or a safe-deposit box.
After you set up your new approach, dedicate some time to its upkeep every week. The best system in the world won’t work if you don’t stick to it. Aside from proper and frequent filing, perhaps the most important ongoing chore is purging unnecessary and obsolete paperwork. A good way to manage what comes into your home or office is to open your mail near a shredder or a recycling bin, so you can discard instantly anything you don’t need to retain.