I know a lot of people are wary of receiving their financial statements electronically. But as a former Etsy seller, I’ve seen a lot of stories of people who have their physical mail stolen, and I figure electronic delivery is about as safe as paper delivery at this point. Also, I like not wasting paper, and I like having all of my records and permanently readily available without having to store that paper, which can become unwieldy–and especially heavy to move if you need to relocate. But to keep electronic records organized so that you can quickly and easily access them, you must have a system in place.
I recommend having a high-capacity external hard drive that you can save your records on (and that you back it up regularly to another source; I back up my hard drive to my desktop periodically). Research the hard drive that is best for your situation. I personally have a Western Digital 4TB Duo Book, and I love it. Your mileage may vary. But my husband, who is an IT guy, researched the many hard drives on the market and recommended it, and I have had zero problems with it. Do make sure you buy a big enough drive to store everything you might want to store on it: home videos, digital pictures, financial records, etc.
When you have obtained your hard drive, you should set up a folder on it for your finances. Here’s how to do so on a Windows computer. (All of my Windows computers run Windows 7, so if you use Windows 10 or some other version of Windows, your mileage probably will vary!)
First, click on the Start menu. Then click on “Computer.” You should see your drive. Double click on that icon. (Mine, below, is D:).
After you’ve double clicked, you are going to create a series of new folders and subfolders by right clicking on “New folder” just below the address bar or by right clicking in this window and clicking on “New” then “Folder.”
You should be able to press F2 to rename the folder name–although my laptop requires that I hold the control key at the same time I press F2. When the name of “New folder” is highlighted as shown in the picture below, type the new folder name.
As you can see, software, drivers, and user manuals that came with my hard drive are in a separate folder I named “Hard drive user manual and apps.” I named my primary folder “Finances.”
I would suggest that you use the same or a similar folder name.
Within the Finances folder, I created two more subfolders using the “New folder” button: “Financial planning spreadsheets” and “Records.” (My completed net worth spreadsheets are saved by date–YYYY.MM.DD–within the former subfolder.)
Within the Records subfolder, I created new subfolders for Assets, Debts, House, and Vehicles.
I’m sure you can figure out how to name and organize these subfolders from here. But as an example, within the Debts folder, I even created subfolders for Credit Cards and Student Loans.
And then I created subfolders for my American Express and Chase cards.
And within those subfolders, I created subfolders named Statements and saved my electronic records in those, named based on their issue date: YYYY.MM.DD.
You can create a lot of subfolders. I have them in the Finances subfolder for not only Assets, Debts, House, and Vehicles, but also for Credit Reports, Insurance, and Utilities.
And of course, I have subfolders within those: each individual vehicle has a subfolder in the Vehicles subfolder; each type of insurance (health, life, long-term disability, etc.) has a subfolder in the Insurance subfolder; and each utilities company has a subfolder as well.
As I’m typing, I think it sounds a little complicated, but it’s really very intuitive, especially if you’re used to working with computer folders at all. As I always say, though, you do you. If you have a system that works for you or decide to try something you think will be easier for you, that’s great. This method works for me, and my husband doesn’t have a difficult time navigating it to find records when I’m not available. I suspect this system will work for others, too, but certainly there are other ways to organize these records. Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments if you have a better system!
Save time, save money, save your sanity: You’ll always know where your records are if they are saved to a hard drive. If you need to call about a bill, you’ll have it readily available. You won’t have to look through a bunch of statements and other records thrown into a box. (That’s what my parents do anyway.) And again, if you have to move, you will escape having to move heavy boxes of paper. You also won’t be storing that paper, whether in your attic or otherwise. And God forbid, if you were to have a fire, you wouldn’t lose all those records.
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Last updated 07/01/2017