Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

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texasdiver
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Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by texasdiver » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:24 pm

I'm the kind of person who stores every paper bank, credit card, mortgage, investment, and pay statement and then files them away in annual financial folders by year. For what purpose I'm not exactly sure but I have folders of records going back 25 years. I have all of the same information in Quicken and available online. And come to think of it, the only times I have ever needed any of those records were during mortgage applications when I needed to document income and show cash flow. And in those few instances it was only the most recent records requested and I pulled them up as online .pdfs and submitted them that way anyway, never touching my paper records.

As 2018 is coming to a close I'm thinking about ditching this system and shredding it all and going to a paperless recordkeeping system. Something that is very easy but still maintains the records that I need. I did buy a Fujitsu ScanSnap last year that I mainly use for digitizing textbooks for work rather than financial recordkeeping. And I'd rather not have to hassle with scanning and storing a lot of receipts and other paper records electronically if I don't really have a need for them. So I'm curious.

So I'm curious. What paper and electronic records do you folks keep and why? I'm not interested in a system of digitizing every last statement down to the monthly gas bill for "just in case". I'm looking more for the minimalist system. What are the minimum financial records I should be keeping, for how long? and why?

And can anyone point to someone who has already designed the ideal minimalist electronic recordkeeping system that I can just copy? That maintains the records that are legally and practically necessary without a lot of unnecessary electronic or paper clutter?

runner3081
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by runner3081 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:18 pm

I am on the minimalist side and only keep the following:

1) Tax Returns - Tax return document only, forever. Supporting documentation, 7 years. All Electronically.
2) Healthcare expenses - Paper and electronic (duplicated). Using HSA as retirement/emergency fund.
3) Receipts for larger purchases - Electronic for the warranty period.

That is it.

Momus
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Momus » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:21 pm

Scan everything and throw it away for most stuff.
Make a folder on each tax year.
Keep tools/electronic receipt for warranty purposes.

Random Poster
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Random Poster » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:38 pm

Paper tax returns forever. W-2s forever, all other supporting documentation for 3 years.

Every January 1st, I print out all of the year's transactions at Vanguard and Fidelity for each account at each place and file the print-outs in a 3-ring binder. I also make a photocopy of the year's calendar showing what days I purchased what and in what amounts, and put that photocopy in the binder. So far, I've got 2 binders for about 20 years worth of financial records.

Any medical or dental EOBs get thrown out after a year.

Utility statements get thrown out after about 3 months.

Checkbook registers get thrown out after about 5 or 6 years.

I don't keep anything else, really.

The idea of going completely paperless is intriguing, but paper is forever (subject to floods, windstorms, and vermin), and pdfs or whatever the electronic medium will be in a decade probably won't be---and keeping things electronically stored requires continual updates to the latest technology. That isn't for me.

RudyS
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by RudyS » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:54 pm

At age 82, I believe .doc and .pdf formats (as well as quite a few others) will be around at least as long as I am, and when they finally do get obsolete, there will be converters.

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oldcomputerguy
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:01 pm

I confess that I have a filing cabinet full of paper income tax returns dating back over thirty years. It's been my plan to scan all these into PDFs, but I've somehow never gotten around to it. I keep other financial records (statements, check registers, etc) as PDFs on a separate USB memory stick.

For redundancy's sake and for recovery from disaster, I'm in the midst of implementing offsite backup onto separate USB sticks that get rotated out and into my safe deposit box at the B&M bank.
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

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BolderBoy
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by BolderBoy » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:10 pm

texasdiver wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:24 pm
I did buy a Fujitsu ScanSnap last year that I mainly use for digitizing textbooks for work rather than financial recordkeeping.
I used my ScanSnap to scan everything - all 30+ years, then shredded all the paper. That was in the mid-2000s and have not regretted it. Literally reclaimed an entire room of my house that was overcome with boxes full of stored paperwork.

Going forward I retain very little paper - everything gets scanned if it comes to me as paper which is very little. The rest comes to me as .pdf files.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

texasdiver
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by texasdiver » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:12 pm

oldcomputerguy wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:01 pm
I confess that I have a filing cabinet full of paper income tax returns dating back over thirty years. It's been my plan to scan all these into PDFs, but I've somehow never gotten around to it. I keep other financial records (statements, check registers, etc) as PDFs on a separate USB memory stick.

For redundancy's sake and for recovery from disaster, I'm in the midst of implementing offsite backup onto separate USB sticks that get rotated out and into my safe deposit box at the B&M bank.
That seems rather excessive unless you are storing millions of dollars of bitcoin or something. I keep all my electronic files in my dropbox folder which is also backed up/updated on the two computers that I use, a laptop and desktop. For me to lose my files would require simultaneously loosing both computers and also having dropbox go under at the same time. I don't see the point in swapping flash drives in and out of a safe deposit box. I don't have anything that is particularly secretive anyway. Just old tax returns and various other documents that are of no interest to anyone else.

If I ever need access to any financial file I can pull it up on my phone or any other screen from anywhere that has online access.

mptfan
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by mptfan » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:18 pm

I download my financial account statements and tax returns and other important documents and save them in my Google Drive. I don't scan anything, I don't even own a scanner, everything is saved electronically as a PDF file download, and every few months or so I do a backup of my Drive folders to my Chromebox. It's a pretty easy system and it doesn't take me that long to keep up with it, and I have access to the documents from any computer with internet access.

I know some people are paranoid about keeping important documents in the cloud, but I have come to accept it and I think it is just as safe from hackers, if not safer, than keeping them on a computer at home due to Google's emphasis on file security. They have a staff of engineers focused on keeping Drive secure from hackers which is much more secure than most people's home computers, and I have a very random password for my Google account that is known only to me and not written down anywhere, and I use two factor authentication, so I think the account is very secure and I sleep well at night.
Last edited by mptfan on Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

moehoward
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by moehoward » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:21 pm

Random Poster wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:38 pm
Paper tax returns forever. W-2s forever, all other supporting documentation for 3 years.

Every January 1st, I print out all of the year's transactions at Vanguard and Fidelity for each account at each place and file the print-outs in a 3-ring binder. I also make a photocopy of the year's calendar showing what days I purchased what and in what amounts, and put that photocopy in the binder. So far, I've got 2 binders for about 20 years worth of financial records.

Any medical or dental EOBs get thrown out after a year.

Utility statements get thrown out after about 3 months.

Checkbook registers get thrown out after about 5 or 6 years.

I don't keep anything else, really.

The idea of going completely paperless is intriguing, but paper is forever (subject to floods, windstorms, and vermin), and pdfs or whatever the electronic medium will be in a decade probably won't be---and keeping things electronically stored requires continual updates to the latest technology. That isn't for me.
What's a check register...

scrabbler1
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by scrabbler1 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:23 pm

For routine stuff such as monthly utility bills and local bank records/transactions, I keep the last full calendar year plus the year in progress. That means right now I have all of 2017 plus the 2018 year. In 2 months, I will get rid of 2017 as 2018 becomes the complete year. Any special stuff such as correspondence I keep around longer. I keep canceled checks and checkbook registers indefinitely, as they don't take up much space.

Once I get the annual statement for my investments I get rid of the monthly ones along with any transaction confirmations.

For tax returns, I keep 7 years of complete folders. Beyond 7 years, I weed out most of the folder's contents except for the returns and vital supporting documents. The folders' contents are reduced by 2/3.

For my old 401k, I kept only the final statement after I did a direct rollover into an IRA. I did keep a few old statements, though, because the plan administrators changed a few times - I kept only each admin's last statement before a changeover.

Most of my medical stuff is 2015 or later because that's when I was in the hospital. For now, I have kept it all but I will have to do some weeding out at some point.

I keep all car maintenance records.

I have a folder for appliances where I keep user guides and warranty info.

I have a folder for general banking info which includes stuff such as credit card agreements and PIN letters from the credit monitoring agencies (that's why I was able to find it easily when I needed to thaw my credit after requesting a credit line increase).

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oldcomputerguy
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:29 pm

texasdiver wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:12 pm
That seems rather excessive unless you are storing millions of dollars of bitcoin or something. I keep all my electronic files in my dropbox folder which is also backed up/updated on the two computers that I use, a laptop and desktop.
No, I'm not backing up Bitcoin. :twisted:

But I am backing up my entire financial life; account numbers, histories, logins, passwords, statements, etc. I will not put any of that in the cloud. I don't care how secure FidSafe, Dropbox, or any of them claim they are. Every company that has been hacked lately thought they were secure, until they weren't anymore. Call me paranoid if you want; I can live with that.

Until recently I was simply backing up to a USB drive and putting that in my safe. But someone here pointed out that, if there were (God forbid) to be a house fire or other disaster, I likely would not be thinking of grabbing a thumb drive while trying to get me and my wife out the door. So I'm now incorporating rotating drives stored offsite into my plan.
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

mptfan
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by mptfan » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:33 pm

oldcomputerguy wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:29 pm
But I am backing up my entire financial life; account numbers, histories, logins, passwords, statements, etc. I will not put any of that in the cloud. I don't care how secure FidSafe, Dropbox, or any of them claim they are. Every company that has been hacked lately thought they were secure, until they weren't anymore. Call me paranoid if you want; I can live with that.
I'm no computer expert, but my understanding is that any computer connected to the internet is "in the cloud," and that includes your home computer.

BW1985
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by BW1985 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:38 pm

I just keep tax returns and medical bills for HSA. It's somewhere in my house I know that.
"Squirrels figured out how to save eons ago. They buried acorns. Some, they dug up, for food. Others, they let to sprout, in new oak trees. We could learn from squirrels." -john94549

michaeljc70
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:53 pm

I keep nothing in paper format unless it is necessary like a passport, birth certificate, deed or title. Everything else, I scan in or save in electronic format. I don't personally keep utility bills or credit card or bank statements as I can get those online (usually going back a couple years or more). I also have a record of the amounts in Quicken. If I close an account, I might save the last statement or two as sometimes you lose access after you close out. I have all my tax returns and supporting documents scanned in going back many years. It was very freeing to get rid of 2 filing cabinets worth of paper when I moved last time.

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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Ice-9 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:54 pm

I've been almost 100% paperless for a few years now.

* Encrypted containers (VeraCrypt) for statements, taxes, health, and some specific purposes too. Most PDFs downloaded from websites, but occasionally I scan one too.

* Veracrypt containers reside in a folder in my Google Drive folder, and VeraCrypt configured to update the modified date every time I open it so Google Drive will update it

* Implemented a simple Python script to copy the folder full of containers twice a month to update redundant copies I have in my OneDrive and Dropbox folders. Overkill, maybe, but a decent use of free cloud space. (Realized after implementing the Python script that I could have configured similar on my Mac using the Apple Calendar's Automator function.)

* If that's not already overkill, my entire computer is automatically updated to Backblaze for $50/yr

* Although I started out copying containers to USB occasionally, I decided this wasn't necessary and it is no longer part of my process

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oldcomputerguy
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:55 pm

mptfan wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:33 pm
oldcomputerguy wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:29 pm
But I am backing up my entire financial life; account numbers, histories, logins, passwords, statements, etc. I will not put any of that in the cloud. I don't care how secure FidSafe, Dropbox, or any of them claim they are. Every company that has been hacked lately thought they were secure, until they weren't anymore. Call me paranoid if you want; I can live with that.
I'm no computer expert, but my understanding is that any computer connected to the internet is "in the cloud," and that includes your home computer.
Well, a computer being "in the cloud" implies that it has open sockets facing the Internet looking for incoming connections. I'm sure it's not perfect (nothing is), but I'm running a fully-patched and up-to-date Linux system which is behind a hardware firewall sitting between it and my AT&T router, plus the computer itself is running a software firewall. And I know first-hand what measures have been taken to prevent unauthorized access, which is more than I can say for any of the cloud providers.
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

jayjayc
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by jayjayc » Tue Nov 06, 2018 7:07 pm

All my important financial records are stored in pdf except for 1 thing b/c I'm still emotionally attached to it. It's a paper letter from my old student loan debtor informing me that I'm free. :D

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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by ThriftyPhD » Tue Nov 06, 2018 7:20 pm

texasdiver wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:24 pm
As 2018 is coming to a close I'm thinking about ditching this system and shredding it all and going to a paperless recordkeeping system. Something that is very easy but still maintains the records that I need. I did buy a Fujitsu ScanSnap last year that I mainly use for digitizing textbooks for work rather than financial recordkeeping. And I'd rather not have to hassle with scanning and storing a lot of receipts and other paper records electronically if I don't really have a need for them. So I'm curious.

So I'm curious. What paper and electronic records do you folks keep and why? I'm not interested in a system of digitizing every last statement down to the monthly gas bill for "just in case". I'm looking more for the minimalist system. What are the minimum financial records I should be keeping, for how long? and why?
I had a different view on this. I view having to make the decision 'do I need this' to be the hassle. The scanning/shredding is a brainless background task. So if I can do a bit more brainless background task to save me conscious decision making time, I'll take that tradeoff.

I don't ever want to bother wasting my time deciding if I need a document or not. I scan and shred. Everything is automatically filed and processed with OCR so it's very easy to search everything. Computer storage space is cheap enough to be free. Everything new is set up to be paperless, so there is not much new material to process, just old paperwork.

lightheir
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by lightheir » Tue Nov 06, 2018 8:06 pm

Go paperless unless you hate computers. Seriously, it saves you SO much time and energy and house space in the long haul. Plus you can back it up.

Don't worry unnecessarily about the 'security' of it all. Take reasonable precautions, like don't just leave files hanging out unprotected to be copied, and you're good to go. No need for strange crazy uber black hat security (BH forums seems to attract folks into this!)

thieves would much rather hack a small business than waste their time hacking a single individual, unless you're a celebrity of sorts.

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Watty
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Watty » Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:03 pm

Before you start reorganizing everything one thing to do is to get a copy of your Social Security earnings history and verify that it at least looks reasonable and does not have any unexpected zero years.

If you need to get any of these corrected it might be easier to find the needed paperwork before you change how you store everything.

If there is any chance that you might have any paper savings bonds then be sure to watch out for those. They are easy to get misplaced in all the paperwork.

LarryAllen
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by LarryAllen » Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:12 pm

I save very little paper. Original deeds, estate documents, and some misc. items that don't scan well.

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jabberwockOG
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by jabberwockOG » Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:16 pm

File and store tax returns and supporting documentation for last 7 years. Anything older than 7 years gets shredded every April. Titles/deeds/passports etc stored in safe in fireproof bag. We receive very little paper at this point since paper items in the mail is most likely more of a security risk than receiving and storing via digital. Everything of ours that is financial/of value/importance is received and stored as electronic document.

Interesting to me as a life long student of IT and the digital age is that at some point in the near future paper items/receipts will no longer be accepted as proof of anything.

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Riprap
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Riprap » Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:18 pm

We're all hosed if .pdf format becomes obsolete. I'm kind of joking and kind of not. Something I do think about. VHS anybody?

GuyInFL
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by GuyInFL » Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:34 pm

I use filethis.com to auto download credit card and other statements in pdf format.

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MP123
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by MP123 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 11:20 pm

I found some 30 year old paper tax returns recently, good times remembering the day! Dot matrix printers anyone?

But with Quicken, TurboTax, online banking, credit cards, and so on you probably don't need any printed paper records anymore.

In fact your entire life's records could probably fit on a micro mini SD chip.

I like the observation above by jabberwockOG that paper documents may be viewed as the unreliable and suspicious things soon.

And don't forget you can always take your paperless records and... print them out... if you want to.

MathWizard
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by MathWizard » Tue Nov 06, 2018 11:29 pm

We have some electronic, but also a file cabinet paper.

We have tax records for the last 20 years.

We keep deeds/titles in a safety deposit box with our wills as long as we hold the property/vehicle.

We keep bank statements and CC statements for a year.

We keep statements for retirement funds as long as we've had them.

michaeljc70
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by michaeljc70 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:53 am

In my comment above, I forgot to add that the first thing I do when I buy anything with a manual (electronics, appliances, etc) is download the manual from the manufacturer's website and save it on my computer and throw the manual away.

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Rob5TCP
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Rob5TCP » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:40 am

I scan everything that I need showing income and anything I might need to show business expenses.
Also, any rollovers or transfers of IRA/SEP,etc. I have records going back over 20 years (first in
.max format and .pdf the past 15 years).

A few years ago, the IRS stated I had a large w/d from my IRA and wanted almost 20k in taxes owed.
This was from a rollover. I forget how many years after the fact this notice arrived. Because I had
all the documents scanned, it took me 5 minutes to mail copies of the IRA transfer. A few weeks
later I received a notice stating no income was due.

Without the scan this would have been a major major headache finding. I am not sure whether
this was 7 years after the RO or not. Still, better safe than sorry. I use about 10GB of a 500GB
drive (with multiple onsite/offsite backups) for all my records. They are heavily encoded in case
the wrong person should get access to it.

inbox788
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by inbox788 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:10 pm

mptfan wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:18 pm
I download my financial account statements and tax returns and other important documents and save them in my Google Drive. I don't scan anything, I don't even own a scanner, everything is saved electronically as a PDF file download, and every few months or so I do a backup of my Drive folders to my Chromebox. It's a pretty easy system and it doesn't take me that long to keep up with it, and I have access to the documents from any computer with internet access.
Is this on your Chromebox? If not, what OS is this device with the Google Drive? I wasn't aware you could go from Chrome browser to a bank and save a PDF directly to Google Drive.

Also, I thought there was a way to sync ChromeBook/ChromeBox with Google Drive automatically. I'll have to look into that and maybe use a USB drive with my ChromeBook.
https://support.google.com/chromebook/a ... 9731?hl=en
https://appuals.com/sync-chromebook-dow ... gle-drive/

This year might be the year I throw in the towel on my paranoia about cloud. My current payer and offline system just isn't working well.

mptfan
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by mptfan » Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:22 pm

inbox788 wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:10 pm
mptfan wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:18 pm
I download my financial account statements and tax returns and other important documents and save them in my Google Drive. I don't scan anything, I don't even own a scanner, everything is saved electronically as a PDF file download, and every few months or so I do a backup of my Drive folders to my Chromebox. It's a pretty easy system and it doesn't take me that long to keep up with it, and I have access to the documents from any computer with internet access.
Is this on your Chromebox? If not, what OS is this device with the Google Drive? I wasn't aware you could go from Chrome browser to a bank and save a PDF directly to Google Drive.
Yes, this is on my Chromebox running Chrome OS. You can do the same thing on Chromebook, and I think it can also be done from any computer running the Chrome web browser for that matter. (For those who don't know, Chrome OS is an operating system, and Chrome is a web browser, they are different things) There are two ways you can save electronic PDF files to your Google Drive: one way is to open the electronic PDF statement on the website, then select "print" (click the printer icon in the top right of the window) and once the print screen comes up you then have the option of selecting the source of the print job, instead of selecting your printer (assuming you have a printer, you don't need one), you select "Save to Google Drive" and it gets saved directly in electronic format to your Drive. Even though you are selecting "Print" if you choose the Save to Google Drive option there is no paper involved, it is an entirely electronic process. The other way is to download the file from the website directly to your computer, then go to your Drive and select "New...File Upload" and select the files that you just downloaded to your computer and upload them to your Drive.

I also highly recommend using 2 factor authentication to keep your Google Drive safe from hacking.

inbox788
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by inbox788 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:54 pm

mptfan wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:22 pm
Yes, this is on my Chromebox running Chrome OS. You can do the same thing on Chromebook, and I think it can also be done from any computer running the Chrome web browser for that matter. (For those who don't know, Chrome OS is an operating system, and Chrome is a web browser, they are different things) There are two ways you can save electronic PDF files to your Google Drive: one way is to open the electronic PDF statement on the website, then select "print" (click the printer icon in the top right of the window) and once the print screen comes up you then have the option of selecting the source of the print job, instead of selecting your printer (assuming you have a printer, you don't need one), you select "Save to Google Drive" and it gets saved directly in electronic format to your Drive. Even though you are selecting "Print" if you choose the Save to Google Drive option there is no paper involved, it is an entirely electronic process. The other way is to download the file from the website directly to your computer, then go to your Drive and select "New...File Upload" and select the files that you just downloaded to your computer and upload them to your Drive.

I also highly recommend using 2 factor authentication to keep your Google Drive safe from hacking.
Thanks for the instructions!

I've been using 2-factor with my gmail account, so it should extend to google drive. Also, I realize I've had an SD card in my Chromebook to expand out the limited storage, and now I have a use for it. So USB or SD card works about the same and can be removed for safekeeping and/or additional loss risk. Looks like encryption of SD card or USB is still in the works. Definitely don't want a file by file or active process. Hopefully they implement and setup encrypted drive automatically.
https://productforums.google.com/forum/ ... MFYr21eOxk
https://www.reddit.com/r/chromeos/comme ... hromebook/

RudyS
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by RudyS » Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:01 pm

Riprap wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:18 pm
We're all hosed if .pdf format becomes obsolete. I'm kind of joking and kind of not. Something I do think about. VHS anybody?
There will be converters around for a long time for stuff like doc, pdf, xls. As for VHS, I recently had tapes of my kids' weddings converted to DVD. Some 35mm slides from the 60's and 70's I had converted to jpg on DVD also. Those I then upload to my computer. Want to see a picture of DW inside a large redwood tree from 1964?

Caduceus
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Caduceus » Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:15 pm

I keep very few paper records. I have five binders: one for taxes, one for financial accounts, one for insurance/health records, one for old academic records like transcripts, and one personal binder for anything important. But they are mostly half-empty, except the one with old tax returns. I would say these papers take up 2% of the total universe of records I have stored digitally.

It's a happy medium for me. If I get something very important where it seems like keeping the paper document might matter should a dispute or some confusion arises, I file it, but 99% of the time I will only scan it and recycle.

I have also made it such that should I not exist suddenly, someone who doesn't have access to any of my digital records (encrypted behind passwords) will be able to know what accounts exist and where simply from paper records.

badger42
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by badger42 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:19 pm

I use my scansnap to save everything, and shred the paper.

Anything truly critical has four copies:
- Local laptop SSD
- Cloud backup (Backblaze)
- Google Drive
- Local laptop backup (external drive)

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F150HD
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by F150HD » Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:43 pm

texasdiver wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:24 pm
I'm the kind of person who stores every paper bank, credit card, mortgage, investment, and pay statement and then files them away in annual financial folders by year. For what purpose I'm not exactly sure but I have folders of records going back 25 years.
Not to be morbid, but..... who gets to clean this up after you die?

sounds like a nightmare to leave a child or family member, regardless of how organized it may be to you.

Scan and digitize. A lot of work ahead of you! :greedy

2015
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by 2015 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 12:20 am

Ice-9 wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:54 pm
I've been almost 100% paperless for a few years now.

* Encrypted containers (VeraCrypt) for statements, taxes, health, and some specific purposes too. Most PDFs downloaded from websites, but occasionally I scan one too.

* Veracrypt containers reside in a folder in my Google Drive folder, and VeraCrypt configured to update the modified date every time I open it so Google Drive will update it

* Implemented a simple Python script to copy the folder full of containers twice a month to update redundant copies I have in my OneDrive and Dropbox folders. Overkill, maybe, but a decent use of free cloud space. (Realized after implementing the Python script that I could have configured similar on my Mac using the Apple Calendar's Automator function.)

...
I do the same thing with Veracrypt and Google Drive. VC is fantastic, and I wouldn't store anything in the cloud without locally encrypting using VC first. I do all updating on Google Drive manually as I want total control of the process. I don't want anything more to do with macrohard than I already do so refuse to use OneDrive, and Dropbox only provides 2GB of free storage space, so not worth the trouble to use them. My "overkill" consists of two unencrypted thumb drives identical to all other backups and stored in my safe deposit box, updated monthly (or more often, if required, but this rarely happens). The unencrypted thumb drives serve as easy to access information for my executor, who has a key to the box.

NoblesvilleIN
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by NoblesvilleIN » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:04 am

I shredded my old tax returns a few years ago. Has anyone ever needed a tax return older than 7 years? This thread has me questioning the shredding, but I've never read of a reason the IRS would question something older (except in fraud, doesn't apply to me). When I cleaned out my parents house, I found my father's tax returns going back to 1948 (and joint returns from when they married in 1950) in a cabinet in a shed with a dirt floor (papers had a strong mildew odor). It was a pain to shred 60 years worth of tax documents, but I didn't just want to toss. After that, I shredded my old tax returns. I don't want to put our kids thru that. So why keep tax returns older than 7 years?

RudyS
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by RudyS » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:58 am

I keep hard-copy of the actual returns only, no supporting info, older than 7 years. This is about 4 inches of file folders going back to my first summer job in 1954. I also made a concerted effort to clean out files and souvenirs, etc., so as not to burden the kids. Years ago I identified a box or two of stuff that is meaningful only to me, as "discardable anytime". Now that we are actively downsizing, that will make it easier.

Broken Man 1999
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 2:34 pm

RudyS wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:58 am
I keep hard-copy of the actual returns only, no supporting info, older than 7 years. This is about 4 inches of file folders going back to my first summer job in 1954. I also made a concerted effort to clean out files and souvenirs, etc., so as not to burden the kids. Years ago I identified a box or two of stuff that is meaningful only to me, as "discardable anytime". Now that we are actively downsizing, that will make it easier.
When my father passed in 2006, I had to go thru all his papers. Dad had receipts for concrete blocks for the house built in 1953. I found an oil change for the 1958 VW. I found the physical checks that went back to establishment of account decades and decades ago. I'm convinced he could find a receipt or check for any transaction he might have done in his life.

It took me weeks and two shredders to destroy all the various papers.

Now, I have become a bit of a paper minimalist. I keep the annual Vanguard Household statements in a three inch binder. I keep no monthly statements from Vanguard, my credit union, or credit cards. I do keep the yearly statement that many credit card account holders are provided, at least for as long as I keep my tax records. Same for the various tax forms, only for the required length of time:

From IRS documents:

Period of Limitations that apply to income tax returns
1.Keep records for 3 years if situations (4), (5), and (6) below do not apply to you.
2.Keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return.
3.Keep records for 7 years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction.
4.Keep records for 6 years if you do not report income that you should report, and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your return.
5.Keep records indefinitely if you do not file a return.
6.Keep records indefinitely if you file a fraudulent return.
7.Keep employment tax records for at least 4 years after the date that the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later.


Just for good measure, I keep tax returns and associated documents for five years.

Because my employer was so bad about records, I will most likely keep my pension papers for the rest of my life. I am not that worried as I took the pension lump sum. But, there is no known limit on how inept employers can be concerning important paperwork.

One advantage to having to worry about paperwork is the fewer accounts you have, the less paperwork generated.

I will say that shredding my father's papers provided some insight into his and my Mother's life. However, I am 100% sure my children will not have to go thru what I did when DW and I pass.

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

FedGuy
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by FedGuy » Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:27 am

I used to save everything, including all my credit card statements going back many years. Years ago, I simplified somewhat, but haven't quite fully embraced paper minimalism.

My current system is:

1) I save all my credit card and utility bills for one year, in an accordion folder with one pocket per month. The first time I file a bill due in, say, November 2018, I remove the November 2017 documents from the "November" pocket and shred them.
2) I save electronic copies of receipts for health care expenses, for HSA purposes. I have a folder on my local hard drive, and within that folder I have sub-folders for each year and sub-sub-folders for each month in which I have expenses. I also maintain a spreadsheet showing a running total of all my healthcare expenses to make it easier when I someday decide to start using the funds in my HSA to reimburse myself for medical expenses previously incurred.
3) I save paper copies of all the tax documents I get back from my accountant. They're all stapled together and I'd rather toss them in a cabinet than futz with trying to break them apart and scan them. I keep meaning to ask if I can just receive them electronically instead of in paper, but I keep forgetting.

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Ice-9
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Ice-9 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:50 am

2015 wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 12:20 am
Ice-9 wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:54 pm
I've been almost 100% paperless for a few years now.

* Encrypted containers (VeraCrypt) for statements, taxes, health, and some specific purposes too. Most PDFs downloaded from websites, but occasionally I scan one too.

* Veracrypt containers reside in a folder in my Google Drive folder, and VeraCrypt configured to update the modified date every time I open it so Google Drive will update it

* Implemented a simple Python script to copy the folder full of containers twice a month to update redundant copies I have in my OneDrive and Dropbox folders. Overkill, maybe, but a decent use of free cloud space. (Realized after implementing the Python script that I could have configured similar on my Mac using the Apple Calendar's Automator function.)

...
I do the same thing with Veracrypt and Google Drive. VC is fantastic, and I wouldn't store anything in the cloud without locally encrypting using VC first. I do all updating on Google Drive manually as I want total control of the process. I don't want anything more to do with macrohard than I already do so refuse to use OneDrive, and Dropbox only provides 2GB of free storage space, so not worth the trouble to use them. My "overkill" consists of two unencrypted thumb drives identical to all other backups and stored in my safe deposit box, updated monthly (or more often, if required, but this rarely happens). The unencrypted thumb drives serve as easy to access information for my executor, who has a key to the box.
Excellent idea about keeping a thumb drive as easily accessible info for an executor, thanks. You have me thinking I may implement something similar - but maybe just a selection of the latest year's information updated every New Year's or something like that. I don't think he will need ALL of the encrypted container contents I keep.

Regarding Dropbox, they were the first free cloud service I signed up with many years ago. I don't know if they still do this, but at least in the early years they made it very easy to up that 2 GB of free space by doing various things such as watching an introductory video about Dropbox while logged in to your account, referring friends, and syncing your phone's photos (which you could subsequently un-sync.) I have roughly 8 Gb free in my Dropbox account.

billthecat
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by billthecat » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:58 am

Scan it all in as PDFs. OCR the PDFs. Shred the paper. Store it on the computer, back it up onsite, back it up to the cloud.

If you're concerned about the security of Box, Backblaze, iCloud, etc., etc., just store the files it in an encrypted virtual drive and back that up to the cloud.

obgraham
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by obgraham » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:59 am

The key to workable electronic filing is organization. You need a way to find something when you want it. In paper times, that is why we used file folders.

Mine is very simple...the PC’s standard file structure. I have a data directory literally called “Filing Cabinet”. Within that, are subfolders with the same names as my old filedrawer. Every pdf goes in there, be it a financial record, or part of one of my other nerdy interests. I can come up with any record in less than half a minute.

When we rotate from home to snowbird, the directory comes with me on a USB drive.

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Ice-9
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Ice-9 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:05 am

Riprap wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:18 pm
We're all hosed if .pdf format becomes obsolete. I'm kind of joking and kind of not. Something I do think about. VHS anybody?
Agree that would be a pain. But PDF has become so widely used for so long that I can't imagine that when something better comes along there won't be a long period where the writing is on the wall and converters are available to preserve your records in the newer format. Even VHS tapes, which I would guess weren''t as universal for as long as PDF files, today can still be converted to digital with devices readily available on Amazon or via services that aren't too hard to find.

2015
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by 2015 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:42 pm

Ice-9 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:50 am
2015 wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 12:20 am
Ice-9 wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:54 pm
I do the same thing with Veracrypt and Google Drive. VC is fantastic, and I wouldn't store anything in the cloud without locally encrypting using VC first. I do all updating on Google Drive manually as I want total control of the process. I don't want anything more to do with macrohard than I already do so refuse to use OneDrive, and Dropbox only provides 2GB of free storage space, so not worth the trouble to use them. My "overkill" consists of two unencrypted thumb drives identical to all other backups and stored in my safe deposit box, updated monthly (or more often, if required, but this rarely happens). The unencrypted thumb drives serve as easy to access information for my executor, who has a key to the box.
Excellent idea about keeping a thumb drive as easily accessible info for an executor, thanks. You have me thinking I may implement something similar - but maybe just a selection of the latest year's information updated every New Year's or something like that. I don't think he will need ALL of the encrypted container contents I keep.

...
Yes, exactly! After having served as executor of an estate this year, I am keenly aware of the importance of keeping things simple for my own executor. My thumb drives don't most of what is in my encrypted containers, just what my executor would need. In fact, as part of updating my estate docs, emergency disaster planning, and insurances early next year, I intend to completely review my estate in order make things even easier for my executor. BTW, reason I keep two thumb drives with identical information in the safe box is in the event one should fail. My executor is aware of the purpose.

texasdiver
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by texasdiver » Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:54 pm

Ice-9 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:05 am
Riprap wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:18 pm
We're all hosed if .pdf format becomes obsolete. I'm kind of joking and kind of not. Something I do think about. VHS anybody?
Agree that would be a pain. But PDF has become so widely used for so long that I can't imagine that when something better comes along there won't be a long period where the writing is on the wall and converters are available to preserve your records in the newer format. Even VHS tapes, which I would guess weren''t as universal for as long as PDF files, today can still be converted to digital with devices readily available on Amazon or via services that aren't too hard to find.
There are two completely separate issues to do with digital formats.

First there are the physical formats of the storage devices. These can and do go obsolete quickly: 5" floppies, 3.5" floppies, zip drives, tape drives, RW CDs and DVDs, and now flash drives and portable hard drives. Good luck every reading an old file you have on an Iomega Zip Drive these days. I expect in 10-15 years people will have a hard time pulling information off their current flash drives because so many new laptops will ditch the old USB ports for newer USB-C and Thunderbolt ports or whatever comes after that. And ports themselves may vanish with more wireless connective technologies. Seriously. It wasn't that long ago that 3.5" floppy devices were the universal storage device. Try finding a computer that can read one today. Even CDs are getting harder and harder to read on modern laptops and play in modern cars. So don't expect your heirs in 2035 to be able to easily read that 20 year old flash drive with all your secrets on it.

The second issue is the file type of the digital file. While these do change they don't really go out of date nearly as fast as the physical formats of the devices. You can still easily open up old Word documents created in the earliest versions of MS Word or even old obsolete WordPerfect files because the new applications are so good at reading old file formats. PFD file format does continue to advance and newer PDFs will have newer features. But I don't think we will ever been in danger of being able to read old PDF files because it will be trivially easy for any new modern applications to include the converters. In fact, if anything it is MUCH MUCH easier to read PDF files today than it was 10 years ago when you actually had to install Adobe Reader on your device. Now you can read PDFs with a bazillion different applications and mobile devices almost univerally.

So bottom line. Worry if you are using older physical devices to store your digital files. But don't worry that they are in PDF format.

Freeway6887
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Freeway6887 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:12 pm

I have a NAS that I use for daily storage - encrypted and password protected. And 2 8TBs that I keep for backups, one at home, one in the bank. They contains photos, doc scans like receipts, but not any sensenstive docs. I keep a single USB stick with a copy of sensitive data in the bank safe deposit box, also it has a LastPass export, bank account lost and etc. I update the USB once a year after the tax season.

criticalmass
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by criticalmass » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:27 pm

My biggest complaint with online statements (my preferred storage medium) is the time it takes to download every monthly statement, give it a standardized file name (Bank_Name-Account_Type-2018-11), and save. Doing a few is no problem, doing several years gets tedius.

Why can’t banks etc allow you to set a file format and download 12 or 36 months at once? They are the ones trying to encourage paperless statements.

Wells Fargo is the worst, every statement takes about 11 clicks, and you have to back up and start all over for the next month (e.g. scroll down to select current year all over again, scroll down to the month etc, finally save to disk and select a new file name because they use one file name for every statement.

It’s faster to get paper, scan and shred than to download large amounts of statements. What is everyone’s favorite scanner for double sided batch scanning? I saw Fujitsu as a snap....any others?

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Watty
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Re: Paper or Paperless? How and what financial records do you keep?

Post by Watty » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:53 pm

NoblesvilleIN wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:04 am
Has anyone ever needed a tax return older than 7 years?
People sometimes find that there is an error in their Social Security earnings history that can be corrected if they have the old W-2s that show the Social Security withholding. You may want to keep or scan those until you are retired and getting Social Security. There may be other ways too but they would be a lot more difficult at best.

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