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Tips For Organizing Financial Paperwork

As Published In Smead Organomics
Tips For Organizing Financial Paperwork

Publicity -- Smead Organomics

Bank, credit card, and investment statements seem to frustrate and confound people more than any other filing. It’s hard to know how to handle financial paperwork, how long to keep it, or the best way to store it. And to add insult to injury, the consequences for mishandling these documents can be pretty severe. So here are a few organizational guidelines to follow when dealing with financial statements and paperwork.

See What You Have

The first rule of thumb is look at it before you file it. You never know when there might be a problem that requires your immediate attention. Even if it isn’t something serious enough to send you to jail, you could be losing money because of clerical errors that you missed. Always read your financial statements!

Set Up Your Filing System

Organize regular bills and financial statements by the month or by the account (your preference) — then arrange documents in chronological order within each file so they are easier to find later on.

Reconcile And File Receipts

In a perfect world, reconciling recent purchases is a three-step process:

  • store receipts in an action file or poly envelope labeled “to reconcile”
  • as your bank and credit card statements come in, mark off each purchase
  • set aside any receipts that require further action (items you need to return or charge disputes)

Receipts for major purchases should be stapled to the warranty or instruction manual and stored in a permanent file — a category for each type of purchase (furniture, electronics, appliances, etc.) works perfectly for this purpose.

Protect Your Investment Papers

Keep monthly financial statements until you get the annual summary. (Then you can shred the monthlies and file the summary in your permanent investment binder. With different accounts, set up one binder per account or brokerage house.) Your binder should also contain all trade confirmations for that account, showing the cost basis for each buy or sell. Keep these for as long as you have that investment — you may be asked to produce them when you cash everything in, to determine if you owe taxes.

Properly Store Your Bank Documents

If you still receive your cancelled checks back instead of a photocopy, keep those in a separate check file to save space. Deposit and ATM slips only need to hang around until you reconcile them with your financial statements — they can live in your action files until that point, and then can be shredded and recycled.

Take Care Of Any Credit Card Issues

You have a limited time in which to resolve a dispute (usually 60 days) — so it is important to take care of these issues in a timely manner. Once you have reconciled your financial statement, you can either file it (if you get a paper copy), or save it on your computer (if you receive your bill electronically).

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and

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