Financial records: What to keep and throw away
MANILA, Philippines - Are you the type who misses payments because of misplaced bills? Do you often find yourself scrambling for older bank statements because you can’t balance your checkbook?
Well, it’s very likely that your financial records are in disarray with important documents strewn over different parts of your home.
Organizing your records in a professional manner can save you both time and money. Just as importantly, it will also give you a clearer picture of your financial situation. You’ll be able to keep track of your spending, monitor your borrowings, and manage your assets more efficiently—and it will only take you a few hours to set it all up.
Before you get yourself organized, here are three factors that you need to consider: what documents you should keep, where you should keep them, and for how long.
Gather all papers and documents detailing your financial affairs including billing statements, bank statements, and receipts as well as proof of ownership, certificates of deposit, and service warranties.
Arrange them in four piles: Active File, Inactive File, Important Papers, and Throw Away.
The Active File consists of documents vital to the everyday operation of your household. These papers should include:
Appliance manuals, warranties, and service contracts (including their receipts)
Bill payment receipts
Billing statements (from utility and credit card companies, among others)
Credit card information
Health benefit information
Insurance policies (car, home, and life, among others)
Safe deposit box inventory (and key)
Tax receipts (e.g. donations to charity)
Set up a filing system for these documents at your home office. The ideal would be to arrange every piece of document according to date and category, and slip them in an envelope or folder labeled for easy reference. For example, all manuals and warranties must be placed in an envelope marked “Appliance Manuals.” Arrange billing statements according to the issuing company.
Spend a few minutes every week going through your Active File to make sure it’s updated, and that you do not miss any important dates, whether it’s a payment schedule or an early bird offer. It’s a good idea to orient your spouse and an older child about the mechanics of the Active File so that they can update the system when you cannot do so yourself.
Documents from the Active File that are three years and older can be transferred to the Inactive File. You can keep these documents, still arranged according to categories in an expanding file folder, under lock and key in one of your desk drawers.
Important Papers are those that are irreplaceable or difficult to replace. These documents include:
- Certificates of deposit
- Deeds and property titles
- Life insurance policies
- Power of attorney
- Stock and bond certificates as well as other certificates of investment
Important Papers must be kept safe and secure in a secondary location like a safe deposit box at the bank. If you prefer to store them at home, then you must do so in a fireproof and waterproof safe. Place the documents in Ziploc bags or other airtight waterproof containers before putting them in the safe.
Whenever possible, get official or certified copies of your Important Papers. Making electronic copies is also a good option. Because your safe deposit box is sealed, keep a copy of your will and power of attorney in a location that’s accessible to your spouse and loved ones.
Finally, there are documents that you can immediately throw away as they just add confusion to your files. However, do not just pitch them in the wastebasket. Take the necessary precautions to protect your personal and financial information against identity thieves. Tear these documents into little pieces or get a portable paper shredder to help you dispose of stale documents.
How long you hang on to a document depends on its importance.
Keep the original receipts of credit card payments until you get your monthly statement; if they match, then you can shred the receipts. If there are tax-related expenses involved, keep the statements for at least three years, a retention period suggested by the Tax Code. Do the same for other billing statements.
It’s okay to hold on to monthly or quarterly statements of investments until you get the annual summary. Your annual files should be complete until you close the account/s.
Bank records should be kept from one year onwards; checks related to home improvements, mortgage payments, business expenses, and taxes must be kept accordingly.
Receipts for significant purchases like jewelry, appliances, and cars — along with any service contracts and warranties related to them — must be kept until you have sold or disposed of them.
Tax records and their supporting documents under the Tax Code should be retained for generally three years, coinciding with the 3-year statute of limitations.
However, consider also reviewing on a case to case basis depending on your audit examinations.
Keep real estate deeds, home purchase, and corresponding records of improvement as long as you own the property.
Hold on to various contracts until they are updated.
Home and car insurance policies should be kept until they are renewed.
Grow Your Money is an editorial partnership between ABS-CBNnews.com and Citi Philippines to promote financial education and provide helpful information to Filipinos on how to better manage their personal finances.
Visit www.citibank.com.ph for more information.