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How to store financial documents?
Old 03-28-2010, 03:18 AM   #1
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How to store financial documents?

I have a 4 drawer file cabinet that I have been using for years to store all my documents, such as tax returns, birth certificate, house deed, insurance policies, etc.

I recently purchased and installed a new printer/scanner (previously never owned one...the little printing I needed to do (3-4 times a year) I did by emailing the files to my w*rk email and printing there). I purchased the new machine with the intention of primarily using the scanner (with the printer as a plus) to scan some old or misc paperwork (old statements, account information, etc.) that I want to keep, but also don't want cluttering up an (admittedly) already cluttered file cabinet. So, I can now scan them to keep them electronically and free up space in my file cabinet. I can also scan some documents, like my house deed, insurance info, car title, etc. to have a back-up electronic copy of them.

I back up my files to a portable hard drive in addition to keeping them on my laptop.

Just curious as to what other people do for their record-keeping? All paper? All on computer? Or some hybrid of both? Pros and cons of whatever system you use?

Thanks!
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Old 03-28-2010, 04:34 AM   #2
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Computer, hard copies in file and thumb drive, stored in a safe place.
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Old 03-28-2010, 07:36 AM   #3
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I have titles, will, etc on both electronic files (home and web) and in a fireproof safe in the basement. The safe is small so we never locked it. I wouldn't want a thief to steal the darn thing thinking it contained something of value to others
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Old 03-28-2010, 07:48 AM   #4
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I also use a fireproof safe for all important paper docs and a backup external hard drive. Much of it is also on record at Vanguard, attorney, etc. too.
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Old 03-28-2010, 09:18 AM   #5
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Copies of my most important documents (will, titles, etc.) are stored in a home file cabinet. Originals in a safe deposit box at local bank. A medium size box here is $35 per year.
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Old 03-28-2010, 10:55 AM   #6
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Apologies if I have posted this before.

I wouldn't store sensitive documents on a computer without encrypting them. I store brokerage statements and confirmations as encrypted PDFs. This works for PDFs that you have downloaded, as well as for web pages. I have attached an encrypted PDF with instructions on how to do this on a Mac, and I expect that it is similar on a PC with Adobe Reader. The password is, wait for it... password.

Secure.pdf
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Old 03-28-2010, 11:06 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by IndependentlyPoor View Post
Apologies if I have posted this before.

I wouldn't store sensitive documents on a computer without encrypting them. I store brokerage statements and confirmations as encrypted PDFs. This works for PDFs that you have downloaded, as well as for web pages. I have attached an encrypted PDF with instructions on how to do this on a Mac, and I expect that it is similar on a PC with Adobe Reader. The password is, wait for it... password.

Attachment 8628
What do you consider "sensitive?" For some, anything personal is sensitive and must be encrypted. For me, sensitive includes all passwords, financial statements with account numbers, etc., (I won't digitize such things online unless encrypted) but doesn't include wills, copies of titles, and things like that. I keep copies of those as well as photocopies of passports and credit cards on a password protected but unencrypted section of my web site.
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Old 03-28-2010, 11:10 AM   #8
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House title, birth certificate, social security card, 1 original and copy of wills and HCP and Living Will and Revocable Trust - all in a small fireproof lockbox somewhere in the house. Originals of all estate documents reside with my trust attorney as well as investment account numbers and company contact info.
Standard 4 drawer file cabinet holds tax return docs, investment statements and household records (warranties, purchase receipts, manuals, remodeling records, etc). I weed it out intermittently at least once a year when I'm REALLY bored on a rainy/snowy day. I keep separate "new item only" tab edged flat folders inside the hanging Pentaflexes for newer or short time expiration paperwork. I keep the permanent "never throw out" stuff physically separated in the same Pentaflex folder.
I keep the volume down by pulling outdated docs at the same time I insert current docs.
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Old 03-28-2010, 11:26 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by freebird5825 View Post
House title, birth certificate, social security card, 1 original and copy of wills and HCP and Living Will and Revocable Trust - all in a small fireproof lockbox somewhere in the house. Originals of all estate documents reside with my trust attorney as well as investment account numbers and company contact info.
Standard 4 drawer file cabinet holds tax return docs, investment statements and household records (warranties, purchase receipts, manuals, remodeling records, etc). I weed it out intermittently at least once a year when I'm REALLY bored on a rainy/snowy day. I keep separate "new item only" tab edged flat folders inside the hanging Pentaflexes for newer or short time expiration paperwork. I keep the permanent "never throw out" stuff physically separated in the same Pentaflex folder.
I keep the volume down by pulling outdated docs at the same time I insert current docs.
That's almost exactly what we do plus the digital copies of stuff mentioned before that I keep online.
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Old 03-28-2010, 11:31 AM   #10
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Thanks IP & don...that is good info. I am naively keeping everything un-encrytped right now but I will need to remedy that. freebird, I need to increase the frequency of cleaning out the files - I always procrastinate about that but your method seems good.

For those of you that store documents online, how do you do this? Do you use a service or it on your personal web site?
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Old 03-28-2010, 11:44 AM   #11
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...freebird, I need to increase the frequency of cleaning out the files - I always procrastinate about that but your method seems good...
TY
I used to be an R&D lab manager. The "folder within a folder" method worked beautifully for constant hardcopy updates to software, hardware and digital test equipment documentation.
When documentation updates showed up in digital form only, I simply put the CD inside the "new item folder". Purchase receipts, warranty info, and hardcopy manuals stayed in the permanent part of the Pentaflex folder.
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Old 03-28-2010, 12:43 PM   #12
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For those of you that store documents online, how do you do this? Do you use a service or it on your personal web site?
I have had a personal web site since 1994 so I use that. You can do this pretty inexpensively. Or there are fairly inexpensive online storage solutions available. Some sort of simple online backup system might be a good way to go: Carbonite or Mozy are examples. Then you can just keep the files on your PC and trust that you have a copy if you need it. I like having photocopies of some documents accessible when I travel so I like the Web site.
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Old 03-28-2010, 12:53 PM   #13
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Thanks don, I'm not sure I know enough about internet security to be putting documents on a web site so I'll check out the services you mention.
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Old 03-28-2010, 05:48 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by caninelover View Post

I recently purchased and installed a new printer/scanner (previously never owned one...the little printing I needed to do (3-4 times a year) I did by emailing the files to my w*rk email and printing there). I purchased the new machine with the intention of primarily using the scanner (with the printer as a plus) to scan some old or misc paperwork (old statements, account information, etc.) that I want to keep, but also don't want cluttering up an (admittedly) already cluttered file cabinet.
I have been trying to get stuff in Acrobat PDF format. So I download brokerage, credit card, bank statements, etc.

If you have Adobe Acrobat writer software (not reader) you can scan to a PDF document with text recognition - I think this is important - so you can search later.

So documents I've been scanning I've been scanning to PDF with text recognition.
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Old 03-28-2010, 06:59 PM   #15
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I've got a file cabinet where I keep statements, but the numbers of files is declining over time; used to be two drawers, now I've got it down to one drawer. More and more I'm just using the online statement storage from online billing accounts instead.

I also have a folder on my computer called "statements" where I was planning on saving pdfs from online accounts, and pdfs of scanned documents. But frankly I've just decided it's too much work for little benefit for me to manually download and file away statement pdfs from the web, so I just leave them on the company site and take my chances about whether they will be there when I need them.

I also had grand ideas about scanning all my paper, but my Canon Lide90 scanner is just too slow to make that worthwhile, so I'm fantasizing about the $400 Fujitsu S1500 which several reviews have said is a great fast automatic document scanner. But I just can't quite bring myself to justify the cost, so for now I'm in limbo waiting for quality document scanners to drop in price. I figure I'm not the only one in this position and in a few years they'll figure out how to produce a good document scanner for around $200 then I'll go fully digital for the stuff I save.

The other issue that bugs me about document scanners is that when a new operating system for the computer comes out, the scanner companies typically don't update the drivers for the old out of production scanners. So I can't really expect a scanner to be useful for more than a few years until I upgrade my OS. As time goes by Microsoft and Apple seem to be getting better about getting manufacturers to update old drivers, so I'm hoping this situation will improve as well in a few years. I've only owned two laser printers since 1991 as new operating systems typically come with usable generic drivers. But document scanners have enough features and quirks that the generic drivers (if even available) seem unlikely to be useful.

There's still lots of papers that I just save for 90 days to a year, and isn't worth the trouble to scan or even file. Mostly receipts, offers, and other stuff whose potential usefulness is time-bound. I used to file that stuff away, but my new approach is just to keep two big stacks, one of receipts and one of everything else, ordered by date of arrival. In conjunction with computer records I can usually figure out the date of arrival for something I want to find easily enough to find it in the big pile, so that ends up being easier than filing everything. Once a year around tax time (actually after I finish procrastinating by writing this message), I'll go through the big pile and separate it into a few important things and the rest trash that turned out not to be needed.
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Old 03-28-2010, 07:30 PM   #16
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Just curious as to what other people do for their record-keeping? All paper? All on computer? Or some hybrid of both? Pros and cons of whatever system you use?
I try not to put any more effort into record maintenance than would be required to replace it. Most of the stuff goes into a lockbox or as an e-mail attachment.

Otherwise the maintenance system takes over your entire life...
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Old 03-28-2010, 07:48 PM   #17
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I keep important things like my passport, birth certificate, will, titles to the cars, etc. in an old fishing tackle box that belonged to my Dad. This is tucked away in the linen closet along with the sheets and towels. I try to keep a copy of all my financial documents in a large cardboard box. Periodically, I shred the old stuff leaving just the current statements. Copies of tax returns are in a separate cardboard box. I am low tech. But I seem to be able to manage my life just fine this way.
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Old 03-28-2010, 08:04 PM   #18
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I've been saying I would go paperless for a while, but this year I've really moved forward on that project. Most of the progress is because there are many more options for saving existing documents as PDFs without scanning. On-line bill paying with e-bills for example. Almost all of my bills show up as e-bills on my CU's website, and I can click on details to open up the actual bill as a PDF document I just hit "save as".

Turbotax gives you the option of saving your completed return as a PDF. I haven't determined if that program allows you to append other documents (supporting receipts) to the PDF file of the return, or if I will just have to create an extra file of copies and stick it in the same folder. I have been tracking all of my donations of goods and items to charities on ItsDeductibleOnline.Com which also creates PDF reports that can be saved.

Intuit recently ran a test on a digital receipt service called QuickReceipts which allowed participating retailers to give you an e-receipt that went to an online data bank like ItsDeductible. You can download PDFs of all of your receipts. The test is over and the website predicts they will be returning as a nation-wide service "soon".

I'm still working on organization and security. For the latter I will probably store databases and scanned data in a removable HD, use Windows7 to encrypt everything, and then keep that drive offline when I'm not using it. An encrypted copy will go to both of my safe deposit boxes (one near my home and the other 15 miles away). There will also be a separate backup HD here at home, probably in my fire safe.
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The other issue that bugs me about document scanners is that when a new operating system for the computer comes out, the scanner companies typically don't update the drivers for the old out of production scanners. So I can't really expect a scanner to be useful for more than a few years until I upgrade my OS. As time goes by Microsoft and Apple seem to be getting better about getting manufacturers to update old drivers, so I'm hoping this situation will improve as well in a few years. I've only owned two laser printers since 1991 as new operating systems typically come with usable generic drivers. But document scanners have enough features and quirks that the generic drivers (if even available) seem unlikely to be useful.
I ran across this recently when I rebuilt my system and went to Windows 7 64 bit from XP 32 bit. Neither HP nor Canon made it super-easy, but after a little time playing around with Google searches like "HP 4890 Windows 7 Driver" I found and installed all of the drivers. And, I also found updated software for everything as well. There were some workarounds that were quirky, like installing Vista 64 bit software using the installation manager and using the "it worked in a previous version" option. Everything works great.

If I had to scan in everything this would probably be a project that never went anywhere. But since so many things are already existing as PDFs, it's easy to take advantage of it with the "save as" button. Just about everything is available that way now. When I registered the warranty on a new furnace/AC system I just went right past "print" and saved it as a PDF.

I'm still tracking down what the IRS rules are on scanned digital receipts, but if I nail that down in the affirmative I'm thinking I won't be saving much paper at all anymore.
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Old 03-29-2010, 12:58 AM   #19
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Old 03-29-2010, 01:09 AM   #20
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I have both feet firmly planted in the mid-20th century.

I keep paper files. These files are kept in a half dozen heavy duty plastic file boxes with wheels and long collapsible handles (like luggage). This way I can roll them out to the car easily for hurricane evacuations. Anything to make evacuation easier is worth it since it is such a huge physical and mental stress for me.

When we move north, I plan to buy a conventional four drawer steelcase file cabinet for them. But for now, that is on hold for the reasons stated.
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