Calm Man wrote:I am computer savvy but have a primitive thought process about this.
1. Why bother downloading pdfs from the websites when they are always there?
Because I don't trust financial institutions to safeguard my financial records.
Many financial institutions make statements available for only a limited time. Some keep them for a year, a few as short as three months, and others seem to keep them forever. I've always been under the impression that my credit union keeps them forever, but now that I look, I see that I've got archived statements on my computer since 1999, but the web site only goes back to 2002. So I think I just discovered a 10 year limit.
Sallie Mae just switched over to a new servicing company for its credit cards. Old statements were not transferred over to the new servicer. Since I receive only online statements, I have no access old statements that I had not yet downloaded. I haven't been able to reach the old servicer, since their phone and web site now forward to the new one. The new servicer grudgingly agreed to obtain copies of the old statements. It's been a couple weeks and I haven't received anything yet.
On multiple occasions I've closed an account at a bank from which I receive only electronic statements, only to find that I immediately lose access to the web site and therefore to my statements. In some cases I lose access before the final statement is issued and they send no paper statement, so I have no way to review the last month's activity without calling and harassing the company.
Three times I've had an account at a brokerage that was purchased by another brokerage. Only in one of those three instances were the old statements available after the acquisition.
Ally Bank claims that it once sent me a piece of (USPS) mail that bounced. They therefore marked my address as undeliverable. They stopped sending me mail, and also stopped making my electronic statements available on the web site. No one I've spoken to at Ally has been able to make give a rational explanation of why they would cut off electronic statements as a result of bounced paper mail. They acknowledge that they have the statements in their system, but they are resolutely unwilling to send them to me in electronic form. The are willing to send me paper copies. I've now spoken with them five times, and twice times sent me a subset of the missing statements. I'm hopeful that the third try will get the last of the missing statements.
Financial institutions don't get it. They're eager to save money by not mailing statements, but most don't then take the time to make sure that customers aren't left without access to their records, even in the face of account closures, acquisitions, bankruptcies and web site revisions. Until they get a clue, I don't see a way to guarantee access without painstakingly downloading statements regularly.
In a perfect world they'd all get together and come up with a standard for securely and automatically downloading statements on a regular basis (kind of like a secure version of RSS). But most aren't technologically sophisticated enough to comprehend the problem, much less offer a solution.
There are a few good eggs out there, like IngDirect (although who knows what to expect from them post-acquisition). There's also at least one service, Manilla, that's trying to automate the process. But as long as they do it via web site scraping, they're probably destined to be unreliable.
Maybe I don't need all my records going back forever. But I definitely need some of them. I use specific share identification, for example. I have concise records of the basis of my shares. But if I'm audited some day, I may need to provide confirmations to substantiate my notes. Loss of my old brokerage records could prove costly.
For now, I manually download all my new statements every few months.