Financial Organizing: Getting Your Documents in Order

This time of year, tax season is fresh on the mind and we bet the most frustrating part is getting all your financial documents in order. Your assets, finances, investments, receipts: these documents should be the most organized and accessible documents in your home.

Here’s how to make that a reality.

Your Wallet

Bet you didn’t realize financial organization could start so small? Your wallet is the first line of defense to keeping things in order. Important receipts should go right in your wallet – not your pocket, not your purse, your wallet. This is your best chance at not losing them.

Now we don’t suggest keeping every receipt or storing them there for long. Hang on to the receipts and invoices that are tax relevant, like business expenses and charitable donations, and keep them in a designated place until you can get them into a home or business filing system.

At Home

Your home is the command centre for all your financial organizing. Depending on how much paperwork you have or how excited labelling gets you, you can use a simple desk filer or a full filing cabinet.

Regardless of how big you go, we recommend separate sections for:

  • Business expenses – receipts and invoices (particularly relevant for the self-employed)
  • Tax credit/relevant documents – receipts and invoices, T4s
  • Investment updates/paperwork – stocks, mutual funds, RRSPs, GICs, TFSAs etc.
  • Asset management – mortgage payments, bills and utility invoices, notices, car payments, property tax bills etc.
  • Legal documents – property lease, insurance certificates, living will, etc.

You can be as specific as you want, but those are the basics to get you started. Keep the folders in an accessible area like a home office or your kitchen. Avoid the basement or garage, if flooding is a risk.

Going Digital

The internet, the final frontier. In the era of email, it’s incredible how much paper you can save. We strongly recommend going digital wherever you can. Most utility companies, like hydro, cable, phones etc., offer online bills.

Most email providers are an automatic organizing system; you can filter and search through documents the moment they reach your inbox. Having both digital and hardcopies is double the reassurance that nothing gets lost.

For extra digital organization:

  • Create the same folder categories as you would with a physical organizer (bills, assets, legal etc.)
  • Scan hardcopy documents and file on external hard-drive (digital backup!)
  • ‘Star’ or ‘flag’ particularly important documents to easily find them when needed (Hotmail, Gmail, Outlook and other major providers all have a ‘mark as important’ system built in)
  • Consider purchasing financial software – ie. Intuit

Archive

For the organizing gurus, archiving your most important documents is the last big step. This is where an actual filing cabinet is necessary.

In an archive organizer, you’ll hold on to:

  • Mortgage payments
  • Property leases or rental contracts
  • Car leases and payments
  • Insurance certificates
  • Wills and related documents
  • Investment portfolios – RRSPs, GICs, TFSAs, Mutual Funds etc.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is the basics that are relevant to most people.

There, that wasn’t so bad was it? It almost makes you look forward to next tax season! Ok, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The next steps are to research the best organizers for your needs and begin overhauling your existing system. Lucky for you: that’s what we’re here for! Call for a consultation and we can help get your documents in order.