Keep Track of Your Documents

If we asked you to get your birth certificate, would you be able you find it? Maybe you’re prepared and can find them in less than two minutes, but if you’re on the other side of that road, you may want to take a day and organize your important documents. Why? If there's a natural disaster or a medical emergency, you need to be able to produce your important documents immediately. Read on to learn a few ways to get organized.


1. Categorize

The first step to getting organized is to categorize. Gather all the loose documents in your home and put them in the following piles:

  • Important Documents:
    Birth Certificates, Social Security Cards, your Will, home ownership documents, medication documents, passwords, family pictures, and anything else you deem highly important.
  • Bills and Payments:
    Any bills you may have. Light, water, gas, medical, phone, etc.
  • Financial Accounts:
    Stock certificates, bond certificates, tax records, credit card accounts, mortgage account statements, etc.
  • Trash:
    We all know we store away documents that just aren’t important. If there is anything you deem unimportant, put it in the trash pile. Make sure you shred these as they may have sensitive information on them!
  • A rule of thumb to remember:
    • Keep Forever: Birth Certificates, Citizenship papers, SSN, your will, and other important documents.
    • Keep 3-7 Years: Any information that verifies your identity/ income. Ex: W-2, bank and brokerage statements, and tuition payments.
    • Store 1 year: Bank statements. Keep digital copies of these as well.
    • Keep 1-2 months: Utility bills, receipts, cell phone bills, or any other type of bills. Keep these for tax purposes and to check you’ve paid all of them.

2. Online & Offline

Now that you have categorized and cleaned up your file cabinet, you need to keep these documents safe. Scan and make copies of your important documents. Keep these offline, in a safe place where you know no one can get to them. Store the scanned documents on a thumb drive that you will keep safe. Make it password protected for extra security!

3. Backup

Identify trustworthy people in your life that you can trust with these documents. Let them know where the documents are stored just in case something happens to you. These people will be responsible for your documents, so make sure you truly trust them.

Once you organize your documents, you will have peace of mind knowing that everything is in order. If an emergency comes up, you can count on the person you trust to know exactly where everything is so you can worry less.

Information gathered from Southern Capital Services.