Organize Your Finances

It’s normal to accumulate a significant amount of documentation—both physical and digital—over time. If you don’t have a system to store or organize these documents, you may misplace important information, throw out paperwork you need, or keep records longer than necessary.

Organizing your financial documents can do more than help you stay on top of your day-to-day finances. It can also help you and your family in case of an emergency. These steps can help you get started.

Keep track of online accounts

Most financial accounts provide some form of online access these days—meaning you can do everything from check your balances, pay bills, or even renew your insurance online.

While digital access is convenient—we’ll talk about how it can assist with digital document storage in a moment—it’s a double-edged sword from a security perspective.

Different online service providers tend to have their own log-in requirements, meaning you may end up with multiple passwords across your accounts. There are two approaches that can help you keep everything in order.

  • List your accounts and log-in information in one place. It’s critical you store this document in a secure place, given the volume of sensitive information it will include. Be sure to share where you’ve stored this information, and how to access it, with a trusted third party.
  • Use an online password manager. These managers use encryption to safely store digital information, which can range from logins and passwords to credit card information. You are only responsible for one password—the one to access the manager.

With Revo, clients who sync their individual accounts to the eMoney client portal can monitor everything in one central location. This can simulate a password manager in many ways, though you may still need to log in to individual accounts for direct actions, like bill pay.

Digital document storage

In addition to daily convenience, online accounts may help you stay organized longterm. Many financial service providers offer digital versions of important documents for a certain number of years.

For instance, your bank may offer digital versions of your account statements going back 10 year, but require you to visit a branch for older statements. The details vary by institution, so make sure you understand the terms.

If you can easily access key documents as needed, you may not need to store them on your personal devices. Of course, there are many benefits to creating and keeping copies of important information. For instance, if you lose your passport while traveling, being able to access a photo of it on your smartphone could be a major timesaver.

Consider digital backups of the following:

  • Driver’s license
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security card
  • Passport
  • Marriage certificate(s) and/or divorce decrees
  • Titles and deeds
  • Insurance cards

Keep in mind: You may need the original version of important documents. For instance, when applying for a Real ID in Oklahoma, you must provide an original or certified document. Digital versions are meant as a backup to help you access key information.

Make sure that any device that contains sensitive information, such as a laptop or smartphone, is password protected. You may be able to go a step further and encrypt or password protect the documents themselves. (This is a particularly important if you plan to store your documents on the cloud.)

Revo clients can securely store documents on the eMoney client portal. This not only helps us with building your financial plan, it creates a secure, central place for you to keep important information. The platform’s security features include 256-bit encryption to scramble data, routine third-party security tests, and two-factor authentication. You can even use the platform for secure private uploads, which won’t be visible to Revo associates.

Physical document storage

Keeping physical copies of important documents can offer the same “just-in-case” protection, but with a different set of security concerns tied to storage. The best place to store documents may depend on your personal circumstances as well as the sensitivity of the document itself.

  • Filing cabinet: If you’re just looking to get organized, and you want your documents easily accessible, a filing cabinet with a lock may be all you need.
  • Safe: For more security, opt for a safe. If you plan to keep important documents in a high-traffic area, or if you have frequent visitors to your home, this can be a helpful layer of additional security.

Tip: Whether you choose a filing cabinet or a safe, opt for the fire-proof version. You also don’t need to purchase a separate safe for financial documents. For instance, some of our clients keep key documents in their gun safe, as these tend to be fireproof.

Don’t forget to purge

Beyond where and how you store you’re documents, it’s important to know what to store. An easy way to keep your files straight is to organize by document type, then account, then year.

In other words, you might have a section of folders for Banking, an individual folder for a particular savings account, and a section earmarked for 2024 statements. Or you might have Medical > HSA > 2024 where you file receipts and plan documents.

This approach makes it easy to purge the documents you don’t need anymore, which can be key to avoiding clutter and staying organized. If you have digital access to savings account A, for example, you may want to skip monthly statements and simply have one folder with annual statements.

If you aren’t sure how long to keep documents, use seven years as a guideline. The IRS has different requirements for how long you may need to keep various documents in case of an audit, but none extend beyond seven years.

At least once a year, spend a few days reviewing your recently accumulated financial documents (both physical and digital) and discard anything you don’t think you’ll need in the future. You might do this at the end of the year or at the end of April when you file your most recent tax return.

Be sure to shred any documents that contain sensitive information. If you don’t have a shredder, you can make an appointment with us and we will take care of it for you.

On the digital side of things, be sure to regularly empty your recycling or trash folder to fully remove deleted files.

How your advisor can help

Your financial team can help you stay organized in numerous ways. Not only can Revo Financial help you organize and store your financial information, you can also call:

  • Your attorney to securely store sensitive documents and pass them to designated people in case of emergency.
  • Your tax accountant for more specific information about which documents to keep and for how long.

If you have questions about storing your documents or want help creating a financial plan to get your finances organized and on track, contact us to discuss.