Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Financial Filing System--The Sequel

The second part of my financial filing system deals with keeping permanent records.  These include tax records, insurance policies, warranties, home improvement records, and the like.  To organize these records, I use notebooks and boxes.  ETA:  Oops!  I forgot to include the link to the first post on the financial filing system, which details how I set up my daily files.
I realized as I wrote this that you will also need to get some heavy duty plastic page protectors.  I recommend the heavy duty ones over the medium weight because they will sometimes have pretty thick booklets placed in them and the heavier duty version holds up better.  Another reason to go shopping at Staples, lol!

Now, using the two notebooks, label them:


And  here you can see my old, ratty notebooks.  Not. so. nice.  But, I just ordered new blue Martha Stewart notebooks!    Got a few new boxes, too, just for fun!  You, however, dear reader, get to see the original ones!  Why?  Because this way, your system can only look BETTER than mine and you will feel SO GOOD!  Right?

The Warranty Notebook:   Fill this notebook with page protectors.  Maybe 10-15 of them. Now,  all of your warranties and instruction books will be kept in the warranty notebook in page protectors, two per page protector.  If you have a lot of appliances, you will definitely need the 2” binder.  The original receipts will be stapled to the warranties.  I also write on the cover of the instructions for each appliance the serial number, the model number, and the date of purchase.  This way when a major appliance like an oven or freezer breaks, I don’t have to kill myself moving it around to try to find the model number!  About once a year, look over the warranty book and throw away the warranties that are expired and any instruction guides for things you no longer own.

If you don’t have too many instruction booklets, you could use another hanging file folder in your file crate for this material.  I just find the folder gets too bulky, so the notebook works better for me.

The Permanent Notebook:  For this notebook, make up a few dividers:

            Insurance Policies
            Home Improvements
            Account Information
            Personal Information

Under “Insurance Policies”, you are (obviously!) going to put your current policies.  It’s helpful to have a sheet of paper in the front of this section with a list of policies, their numbers, and the dates they are paid, as well as the information on your agent such as phone number and address.  Just keeps it all in one place.

Home Improvements” will hold the receipts for major home improvements that will affect the cost basis of your home if you go to sell it.  Any repair receipts for home repairs or work that is covered with a warranty can go here, too. To be clear, I put warranties for appliances (like a furnace or air-conditioner or refrigerator) in the Warranty notebook, but I put receipts for repairs on the house (like a roof repair) that are guaranteed  or warrantied in the Home Improvements notebook.  You can file them however it makes sense to you, just always file them the same way. You can also include any surveys, plot plans, septic system plans, etc. in this section.

Account Information” would include letters with your pin numbers, a list of bank account numbers and names, and a list of credit cards numbers and the phone numbers of the card companies.  Or, you can just copy the front and backs of your cards and keep those copies. 
Also in this section are account agreements.

Personal Information” could include a copy of your driver’s license, copies of any passports your family members have, SSN’s, and vaccination records if that applies.

I also actually have a divider for purchase confirmations of stock and bond investments so that I have these handy for tax purposes.  So, if you have any investment accounts, you might want this section, too.

I keep this notebook in my file crate at the back of all the monthly files.  That way, it's handy but out of sight.

Car titles, loan agreements and payoff papers, property titles, original birth, marriage, and divorce certificates, passports, and any papers related to the closing of health insurance accounts should be kept in a fire-proof strongbox or a safety deposit box at a bank, not in a notebook.

The Tax Boxes:  
Now, label one box per year for each of the prior years (the current year is in your open file system near your mail sorting location, remember?):
Taxes 2010
Taxes 2009
Taxes 2008, etc. 

Horizontal labels are purely optional. You can write directly on the box. I use one box for each year’s taxes.  In fact,  some years I have to file so many different returns (don’t ask!)  that I have to use the 3”-4” thick white boxes that are available at the UPS shipping centers.  They have a flip-up top similar to these (please note these are sold in bulk!).  These flip-top boxes are a good option,  and come in more than one thickness.

 In each box, I store all of the tax returns, all of the back-up documents, all of my return receipts for  mailed tax returns or confirmations for e-filed taxes, and any communications from the IRS for that year (except notifications of tax-payer ID numbers which I keep in  the "Permanent" notebook under “Personal Information”--be SURE to keep these! Once the IRS gave my daughter's number to another taxpayer!!!  It took me a year to get it straightened out, and if I hadn't saved the original document assigning the number to her first, I probably never would have gotten it straight.)  If I ever need any information for that year’s taxes, it is so easy to find it in the box.  The boxes stack well on a shelf and after ten or fifteen years, I shred the contents.  

One final idea:  Although it’s not part of my financial system, I also have two notebooks for the children.  Each one is used for 4 children.  These notebooks are loaded with page protectors and in them are baptismal records, confirmation records,  birth certificate copies, transcripts from community college courses, and anything else special that I would like to keep permanently, more or less.

Hope some of these ideas help you get your own financial house in order!

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