paperwork http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/14601/all en-US How to Organize Your Paperwork in Just 10 Minutes a Week http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-organize-your-paperwork-in-just-10-minutes-a-week <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-organize-your-paperwork-in-just-10-minutes-a-week" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/woman_writing_paperwork_000077386871.jpg" alt="Woman organizing her financial paperwork in 10 minutes a week" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I am an organization nerd. Not only does the thought of going to an office supply store make me giddy, but I have been known to spend a torrid Saturday night wantonly using my label maker on everything in the house.</p> <p>Despite these tidy living bona fides, for years my organizational downfall was financial paperwork.</p> <p>If you find yourself in a similar state of paperwork chaos, not to worry. You can tame the beast without having to sacrifice an entire week to the project. In fact, organizing your paperwork is a job you can handle in 10 minutes a week. Here&rsquo;s how:</p> <h2>1. Know What You Need</h2> <p>The first <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-stress-is-killing-your-finances">problem with financial paperwork</a> is the fact that it can be difficult to remember how much of it you need to keep. The specter of an IRS audit is enough to turn anyone into a paperwork hoarder, but keeping everything isn&rsquo;t helpful if you don&rsquo;t know how to find what you need.</p> <p>Before you get started, you need to know what to keep and what to toss.</p> <h3>The One-Year Rule</h3> <p>Most of your day-to-day financial paperwork, such as paycheck stubs, paid bills, bank records, and quarterly investment statements only need to hang around for a year at most. Once you&rsquo;ve received your W2 and annual statement, you can shred paycheck stubs and quarterly investment statements after making sure everything is accurate. Unless your bills and bank records are needed for tax purposes, they can also be shredded after one year.</p> <h3>The Three-Year Rule</h3> <p>You have probably heard that you need to keep all tax-related paperwork for seven years, but that is actually a longer period of time than what the <a href="https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&amp;-Self-Employed/How-long-should-I-keep-records">IRS expects</a> of the average taxpayer. While you are stuck holding onto your annual tax returns indefinitely, the IRS doesn&rsquo;t expect you keep supporting documentation (like mutual fund reports or charitable gift receipts) for more than three years. What&rsquo;s special about the three-year mark? That&rsquo;s the number of years Uncle Sam has to initiate an audit for regular tax returns.</p> <p>Once you&rsquo;ve passed three years, you can shred the records, with a couple of exceptions: First, keep documentation showing the initial purchase price of any stocks or mutual funds you own, because you will need to determine your gains or losses when it comes time to sell. And second, hold onto house records for as long as you live there (or own the place).</p> <h3>The Seven-Year Rule</h3> <p>The IRS can initiate an audit within seven years for any taxpayers who filed a claim for a loss from worthless securities or a bad debt deduction. Taxpayers who don&rsquo;t include up to 25% of their reportable gross income (think servers or other employees who rely on cash tips) should hold onto their records for six years in case of an audit.</p> <h2>2. Start Sorting With Three Folders</h2> <p>Once you understand what can be kept and what can be chucked, it&rsquo;s time to start organizing. The key to 10-minute organizing is the <a href="http://thepeacefulmom.com/2015/03/10/organize-paperwork-fast-a-giveaway/">Quick Sort Method</a>, created by Kimberlee Stokes of The Peaceful Mom. You will need three empty manila folders, labeled NOW, 10 MINUTES A WEEK, and FILE. In addition, you want to warm up your shredder for all the items that don&rsquo;t go in any of these folders.</p> <p>Once you have the system in place, you can leave your three folders in a standing rack right by the trashcan or shredder and sort items the moment they come in the mail.</p> <h3>The NOW Folder</h3> <p>This is where you will put any items that need immediate attention, such as bills to pay, insurance paperwork, license renewals, and the like. When you finish sorting all of your paperwork during this first sort-and-purge stint, you will go through the NOW folder and take care of everything. This will likely take you longer than 10 minutes the first time, but it will set you up to make organizing your paperwork and paying your bills much simpler down the road.</p> <p>As you complete each item in the NOW folder, you can move that paper either to the FILE folder for future filing, or to the shredder. Once you have your system in place, you can put items directly in the NOW folder as you receive them, and take a minute or two each day to empty the folder.</p> <h3>The 10 MINUTES A WEEK Folder</h3> <p>This folder will house all of the items that require some sort of action on your part but don&rsquo;t need immediate attention. For instance, you might put subscription renewals, paperwork that requires input from other family members, items that have no specific deadline, and the like.</p> <p>Once you have taken care of the NOW items, the items in this folder will be the work that you do each week to stay on top of your paperwork and maintain your organized files.</p> <h3>The FILE Folder</h3> <p>Items that you need to file for the future will go into this folder. When you start using this system, the FILE folder will get pretty full, but eventually, you&rsquo;ll find that there is nothing left in the first two folders You will spend your 10 minutes each week filing from this folder.</p> <p>As for the filing, generally you will only need two systems: one for tax documents and one for general financial documents. These two systems do not need to be complex to be useful. Here is how to organize them both:</p> <h2>3. Organizing Tax Documents With Three Folders</h2> <p>Most taxpayers can easily organize their tax documents with three folders. You&rsquo;ll need one each for income, expenses and deductions, and investments.</p> <h3>Folder for Income</h3> <p>If you work a single traditional job and receive electronic paystubs, you may not even need an income folder. But this is essential for those with irregular income, freelancers, contractors, people holding multiple jobs, and anyone who receives income from investments. Having this folder in place will help you keep track of every single penny you earn.</p> <p>Not only should you deposit all paycheck stubs into this folder, but Dayana Yochim of The Motley Fool also recommends <a href="http://www.fool.com/personal-finance/taxes/get-organized-for-the-irs.aspx">recording your earned income</a> on a cover sheet in the folder, as well. This will give you method for checking the accuracy of official documents as they arrive.</p> <h3>Folder for Expenses and Deductions</h3> <p>If you&rsquo;re like most people, you probably throw your receipts, statements, and paid bills into a shoebox to sort through come tax time. It&rsquo;s much easier on your sanity to create an Expenses and Deductions folder with separate sections so you can be more organized throughout the year.</p> <p>For instance, this folder might include sections for business, charitable donations, childcare, and medical expenses. Separating out all of your receipts for expenses and deductions will save you from those horrible moments when you cannot recall why you held onto a particular receipt.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s also a good idea to file a list of common tax deductions in this folder so you can easily remember what you may claim what documents you need to save.</p> <h3>Folder for Investments</h3> <p>Your Investments folder is where you will store the following paperwork:</p> <ul> <li>Records proving your tax-deductible contributions to retirement accounts.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Notices of dividends, and capital gains and losses.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Distribution records you receive when you take money from investment accounts.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Annual statements.</li> </ul> <p>Generally, the IRS will not need all of this paperwork for next year&rsquo;s taxes, but you need this information on hand for future tax returns. For instance, if you sell an investment, you will need to be able to provide paperwork about that investment, and having it filed by year for future reference will make your life much easier.</p> <h3>Organize Tax Information by Year</h3> <p>Once you have filed your taxes each year, it&rsquo;s a good idea to then create a file folder labeled with the year, where you place everything from your three tax folders. Each year, you can also go through your four-year-old (or eight-year-old) tax file folder and purge the documents that you no longer need. Remember, you should keep the actual return for each year &mdash; it&rsquo;s only the supporting documents that can be shredded after the end of either three or seven years.</p> <h2>4. Organize General Financial Documents Alphabetically</h2> <p>For all of your general financial documents, the easiest filing system is the one recommended by David Allen in <a href="http://amzn.to/1QFBfpg">Getting Things Done</a> &mdash; file your paperwork alphabetically in hanging folders. It is much easier to find the specific paperwork you need if you know to look for a cable bill under C for Comcast, rather than trying to root through a huge folder labeled Utilities.</p> <h2>5. Maintaining Your Paperwork Organization</h2> <p>Organization is a process, not an event. Creating these folders will not actually help you end the paperwork pile-up if you can&rsquo;t maintain it. Here are two ways to make sure you keep up with your 10 minutes per week:</p> <h3>1. Put Documents Where You Naturally Store Them</h3> <p>We all have a tendency to let our paperwork pile up in a particular spot in our home, such as the kitchen counter or the coffee table. One of the problems with attempting to get organized is that we often try to rehome our paperwork in a &ldquo;better&rdquo; place than where things naturally gather, and so we spend an afternoon creating a paperwork station in the spare bedroom.</p> <p>But you&rsquo;re not going to schlep the mail upstairs every day after work, so don&rsquo;t expect a filing system to be sustainable up there. Create a system in the place where you naturally gravitate, because it is easier to maintain a habit that is based on the way you already use your space.</p> <h3>2. Schedule 10 Minutes of Organization Per Week</h3> <p>Organizing financial paperwork is an important but not urgent task, so you can easily fall into the &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll just do it later&rdquo; trap. The trick to keeping up with your organization is to schedule it the same way you would a meeting or conference call.</p> <p>Unless you schedule a specific time and protect it from other commitments, you&rsquo;re likely to lose momentum. Figure out when your 10 minutes will be spent, write it on your calendar, and keep the appointment with yourself. You&rsquo;ll be glad you did.</p> <p><em>How do you keep your important documents organized?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/emily-guy-birken">Emily Guy Birken</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-organize-your-paperwork-in-just-10-minutes-a-week">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/to-shred-or-not-to-shred-how-long-to-keep-your-tax-records">To Shred or Not to Shred: How Long to Keep Your Tax Records</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-simple-ways-to-save-money-by-tracking-your-receipts">6 Simple Ways to Save Money by Tracking Your Receipts</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/organizing-your-financial-paperwork">Organizing Your Financial Paperwork</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-things-in-your-house-youre-forgetting-to-clean">9 Things in Your House You&#039;re Forgetting to Clean</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-things-to-throw-out-today">25 Things to Throw Out Today</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Organization audit bills cleaning documents filing paperwork taxes Wed, 30 Dec 2015 14:00:03 +0000 Emily Guy Birken 1626821 at http://www.wisebread.com Why You Should Always "Get It in Writing" http://www.wisebread.com/why-you-should-always-get-it-in-writing <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/why-you-should-always-get-it-in-writing" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/writing-5087000-small.jpg" alt="writing" title="writing" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>At some point in your life, someone is going to do something that adversely impacts you, whether your employer skips you over for a promotion or your landlord tries to keep your entire security deposit. You're going to have to fight back and prove that you're in the right. And to do that, you're going to need evidence. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/organizing-your-financial-paperwork" target="_blank">Organizing Your Financial Paperwork</a>)</p> <p>The average organization (or individual) doesn't set out to make your life hard. They just work from the assumption that they must be right, at least until shown otherwise. That means that you need documentation of the circumstances in order to win fights. And, since it's tough to tell when someone is going to do something wrong in advance, it's a good idea to build a habit of keeping good documentation.</p> <h2>Get It in Writing</h2> <p>I can't count the number of times that someone has <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-what-you-want-on-customer-service-calls" target="_blank">promised me one thing on the phone</a> and forgotten all about it the moment he's hung up. Unless you have a recording of the phone call (which can actually get you into legal trouble!), it's a matter of &quot;he said, she said.&quot; The only alternative is to get any <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/22-reasons-to-write-a-letter" target="_blank">decisions in writing</a>, especially if they're out of the ordinary.</p> <p>It's easy to ask the person you talked to for an email laying out the terms you just discussed. Actually getting that email can be a different matter. Turning the tables can speed up the process; you can write up the terms you discussed and send it to your contact, asking for confirmation that you wrote everything up correctly. Even a quick reply saying that it's exactly what you discussed will help you win your fights down the road. And your email is easier to search than voice mails and other recordings.</p> <h2>Store and Organize Your Documents</h2> <p>Most of us have employment contracts, utility bills, and stacks of other papers all over the place. A haphazard organization system is no help in winning a dispute because you may not even be able to find your documentation. One of the best options is <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-go-entirely-paperless-at-home" target="_blank">to digitize everything</a>, particularly with text recognition software, so you can easily search for any document you need. (I use <a href="http://www.evernote.com/" target="_blank">Evernote</a> and a scanner.)</p> <p>Build a habit of scanning every piece of paperwork you need and saving it to the same place. You'll want a back up of your files and you may also need to keep your physical copies &mdash; but those won't need to be so thoroughly filed.</p> <h2>Double Check Your Terms</h2> <p>We all forget the details after a while. If something feels a little off and you think you may have to gear up for a dispute, check your documentation before you draw your line in the sand. You may need to round up a few more papers before going up against the bureaucracy. Or you may want to renegotiate those terms. Either way, you'll need the documents in order to get what you want.</p> <p><em>Have you ever been forced to defend yourself with documents? Please share your experience in comments!</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/thursday-bram">Thursday Bram</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-you-should-always-get-it-in-writing">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-organize-your-paperwork-in-just-10-minutes-a-week">How to Organize Your Paperwork in Just 10 Minutes a Week</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-4-step-plan-to-manage-your-medical-correspondence">The Best 4-Step Plan to Manage Your Medical Correspondence</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-brands-with-the-best-warranties">6 Brands With the Best Warranties</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/netspend-the-story-of-the-visa-debit-card-we-did-not-apply-for">netSpend: The Story of the Visa Debit Card We Did Not Apply For</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/debit-or-credit-which-one-should-you-choose-at-the-checkout">Debit Or Credit? Which One Should You Choose At The Checkout?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs business disputes documentation evernote filing paperwork Fri, 14 Jun 2013 09:48:32 +0000 Thursday Bram 977397 at http://www.wisebread.com Organizing Your Financial Paperwork http://www.wisebread.com/organizing-your-financial-paperwork <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/organizing-your-financial-paperwork" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000010646398Small2.jpg" alt="Woman looking through paperwork" title="Woman looking through paperwork" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="181" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Keeping your finances organized may be easier than you think. Even if you hate organizing or are short on time, you can still stay on top of your paperwork by setting up a simple system. The best system reduces the amount of clutter coming in your front door and makes it easy to prioritize and deal with the remainder. (See also: <a href="http://getcurrency.com/design-home/3-ways-to-declutter-your-desk-and-divorce-your-mess">3 Ways to Declutter Your Desk and Divorce Your Mess</a> via Currency)</p> <h2>Reducing Paperwork</h2> <p>The first secret is to reduce the amount of time you spend on the same types of paperwork over and over again each month. For example, I can probably guess the majority of the things that are cluttering up your desk right now:</p> <ul> <li>Bills</li> <li>Statements</li> <li>Other Important Documents</li> </ul> <p>You can probably stop at least 50% of it from bombarding your mail box by having your bills and statements delivered and automatically handled digitally.</p> <h3>Bills</h3> <p>Many banks these days are offering free or cheap online bill pay, or you could go with a more comprehensive option like I use, Intuit&rsquo;s <a href="http://paytrust.intuit.com/">Paytrust</a>. Services like Paytrust allow you to manage all your bills in one place and set very specific rules and alerts for handling each bill.</p> <h3>Statements</h3> <p>Not only can you have many of your bank, brokerage, and insurance statements delivered to you electronically &mdash; doing so could actually save money. In an effort to cut costs and be more environmentally friendly, many companies are either providing incentives to go paperless or charging you a fee to continue receiving paper.</p> <h3>Prioritizing Paperwork</h3> <p>You&rsquo;ll have to screen all the paperwork that can&rsquo;t be digitized and automated that lands in your mailbox. You really only need one criteria for your initial screening &mdash; does it require immediate action?</p> <p>If it&rsquo;s something you can address later, you can add it to a &ldquo;To File&rdquo; folder, which we&rsquo;ll talk about later on. The urgent paperwork can go into a &ldquo;Due Tomorrow&rdquo; file that lives close to the entrance of your home. Keeping it visible helps you remember to take care of the paperwork and keeps it from getting lost in a pile on your desk.</p> <h2>Organizing Paperwork</h2> <p>Now that you&rsquo;ve eliminated a chunk of paperwork and handled urgent documents, you still have to worry about the rest of it. I think this is where many people have a break down in their system and can end up keeping stacks of papers on their desks.</p> <p>Two common reasons for not filing away these papers are that people are too busy and that they don&rsquo;t know where to file things. If you can remove those two obstacles, you make it much more likely that you&rsquo;ll organize your documents and declutter your desk.</p> <h3>Filing and Finding</h3> <p>I use a simple filing system called <a href="http://www.homefileorganizer.com/">HomeFile</a> that defines the categories for my paperwork and comes with dividers and a cheat sheet to remind me where things go. Over time you pretty much know where things get filed, but it&rsquo;s a nice system for getting started &mdash; plus it can help when coming back to look for a specific document years down the road.</p> <p>If your desk is already a pile of papers, then going through them can be daunting. Having a ready-made system like this can make it easier to get started tackling the mess.</p> <h3>Making Time</h3> <p>The non-time sensitive paperwork in your To File folder can wait until you have some downtime to be filed. The time you choose will depend on your lifestyle and habits &mdash; just keep your eyes open for occasions when you&rsquo;re <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/massive-list-of-things-to-do-while-watching-tv">sitting around home</a> and can file a few papers.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re not a big fan of organizing, or maybe just too busy, hopefully these tips have given you some ideas on how you can take control of your desk again.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ben-edwards">Ben Edwards</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/organizing-your-financial-paperwork">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-organize-your-paperwork-in-just-10-minutes-a-week">How to Organize Your Paperwork in Just 10 Minutes a Week</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-clear-out-financial-clutter">How to Clear Out Financial Clutter</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-you-disrespect-your-money">10 Ways You Disrespect Your Money</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-why-you-shouldnt-freak-out-if-you-miss-a-payment-due-date">Here&#039;s Why You Shouldn&#039;t Freak Out If You Miss a Payment Due Date</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-7-debt-payoffs-that-boost-your-credit-score-the-most">The 7 Debt Payoffs That Boost Your Credit Score the Most</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Organization bills paperless paperwork Fri, 26 Aug 2011 10:36:15 +0000 Ben Edwards 678788 at http://www.wisebread.com