Shoebox vs Safe: Keeping Important Documents Safe

I remember watching reruns of the original “Let’s Make a Deal” when I was a kid. One of my favorite parts was the treasure hunt. It amazed me what kind of things some of these ladies would have in their purses. And more impressively, they could locate these objects quickly.

When looking for your financial and personal records, do you ever feel like you’re on a treasure hunt? Chances are, if you’re in a co-spending relationship with a spouse or significant other, one of you is the record keeper and the other has very little interest in keeping records. folders. It’s not always the case, but as the saying goes, opposites attract.

What does your record keeping system look like? Is it a pile of papers in a large shoebox marked IMPORTANT or something more elaborate with spreadsheets on specially marked jump drives in a security offset box? Wherever we are on this continuum, everyone would probably agree that we could do a better job of not just keeping track of important things, but communicating where that information is with trusted family members.

Here are some thoughts to help you get started:

  • Can you quickly find last year’s tax return and the documents used to complete the return?
  • Do you know where your original Social Security card, marriage certificate, and birth certificate are? What about those of each member of the family?
  • Do you have hard copies of bank statements, credit card statements, and other documents containing sensitive account numbers in a secure location in your home?
  • If you use online banking, receive or use electronic accounts and billing, do you use a different password for each location and change your passwords regularly?
  • If your wallet or purse is stolen, you are required to report all credit cards stolen. Do you know what credit cards you normally carry and do you have the phone numbers of all those credit card companies stored outside of your wallet or purse?
  • Could a non-family member find important information about what to do in an emergency?
  • In the event of your death, could someone find the burial instructions and your will?
  • Do you know where to find your car insurance policy?
  • Can you locate major appliance warranties?
  • In the event of a fire, could you provide your insurance agent with an accurate list of all damaged or lost household goods to settle your claim?

There are many benefits to having a record keeping system. It can help you better manage an emergency or simplify the claims process in the event of loss resulting from fire, theft, flood or other insured loss. It can also help find information faster because time is precious. I think one of the best benefits is that someone else would be able to locate important documents if you became unable to.

Either way, having a system – even if it’s a sizeable shoebox – is a good start. Often it is life experiences that lead people to be more organized. Like having to manage the estate of a parent who left little or no instructions on what to do in their absence. Think of your financial record keeping as a gift to family members.

If you are wondering what should be kept, how long you should keep it, and where is the best place to keep these records, I encourage you to review the links on our website under “Financial Wellness and Resources”.

Today I leave you with this quote from Craig Groeschel: “Love does not take into account wrongs, but bitterness takes detailed accounts.”

Emily Marrison is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and can be reached at 740-622-2265.

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