One of the most popular New Year's resolutions is to get organized. Yet, a few days after those resolutions are made, most people decide to move on to something else. For many people, getting organized is like taking a cold shower in that it is best done only when it has to be done. But getting your banking papers and other financials in order does not have to be torture.
The best reason for getting your banking papers and other financials in order is because you need to know what information is on those documents in order to have the best sense of where you are financially. From balancing your checkbook to keeping tabs on your money market accounts, information and organization are the keys to success.
If it has been a while since you last organized your financials, take a deep breath and tell yourself that you are going to do this and then give yourself a good amount of time to get it done. Do not try to do it all in one day, as that often leads to mistakes and frustration. If need be, give yourself an entire month to get the task done. Just make sure you commit enough time during each week of that month to get some work done on it.
When it comes time to gather up your documents, use this list as a guide to help you get started.
Gathering up statements and other important information concerning checking and savings accounts should be your first task.
The next step is to find all the information on your retirement accounts. This might include your IRAs, Roth IRAs and 401(k) statements. While you are doing this task, you can also find and organize your non-retirement accounts. These are the various papers that pertain to other types of investments that you may have. This might include such things as money market funds, CD's, money market accounts, etc.
Another particularly useful task to do while organizing your banking papers is to locate all of your loan documents. These would include mortgage papers, auto loan papers, etc.
Tax returns and information concerning tax payments should also be located and stored in a safe place.
The amount of time that you keep documents is up to you but there are some guidelines for this.
Monthly banking account statements should be kept for one year. If you get an annual statement summarizing your account you can discard the monthly statements once that is received.
Tax returns should be kept for at least seven years. The IRS can audit you up to seven years after a return is filed. At a minimum, you should keep your state and federal tax returns and any supporting documentation for that length of time but there is nothing wrong with keeping them longer if you wish.
Mortgage papers should be kept for the length of the loan and longer in some cases. Papers concerning auto loans, boat loans, and personal loans should be kept for the length of the loan plus one year.