I've decided to go paperless

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
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dryfly
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I've decided to go paperless

Post by dryfly »

I have made a decision to get rid of years and years of financial, medical, checkbook and tax related papers by digitizing all of them. I can't continue to carry around and store all of this much paper.

Also, I have found it much easier to retrieve information this way as opposed to digging through box after box, and paper after paper.

It appears the best way to do this is create PDF files. I could use TIFF or JPEG files but they are much larger and will only store 1 page per file. With the PDF files I can add as many pages as I want to and do it under 1 file name.

All of this would be archived on my hard drive and to several cd's stored in multiple locations.

Any suggestions of better ways to accomplish this before I make a big mistake and shread/burn all the hardcopies?

Thanks in advance,

Jerry
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NAVigator
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well...

Post by NAVigator »

Before starting any change to your system, I would suggest reviewing what paper is important to keep and for how long. I moved within the past few months and was astounded how much 'excess' paper records I had. I am fairly careful about what I retain, but I discovered many files of unnecessary statements and receipts. I recycled a lot of paper.

Jerry (also)
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Target2019
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Costs

Post by Target2019 »

There is a lot of paperwork, and it never seems to have the answer you need. But I'd think about it in depth. I know from experience that scanning takes a lot of time. You'll also need sufficient resources now and in the future. Backups will be more complicated too.

When current drive fails, will you be able to retrieve all the data and move it to the new drive? There are two types of system users, one will lose data, the other has lost data.

The way I look at this, is that the big company can print more efficiently. Good example is the checking account statement. Wife turned off paper copies. Now she prints a copy to balance each month. Costs about $1.00 for ink and paper.

PDF is the way to go where you have too. Make sure you have all the settings correct, or you'll generate a lot of un-readable images.
ataloss
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Post by ataloss »

how does this work- does your scanner software support creating acrobat files?
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dryfly
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Post by dryfly »

ataloss wrote:how does this work- does your scanner software support creating acrobat files?
Yes, I have a Canon CanoScan and Canon software which will generate up to 400 dpi black and white scans and has the option of creating them as Adobe PDF files. It is relatively fast in this mode.

In answer to the previous poster, backups will not be an issue. I will keep the current year in paper and somewhere around tax time will archive all into PDF files. Yes, it will take some scanning time, but I have the time and feel that the convenience factor would be worth it.

I guess my only concern is that in years to come is that Adobe Acrobat will not be the software of choice for this type of archiving. By then I guess there will be some type of conversion software.
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Bylo Selhi
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Post by Bylo Selhi »

From Don't Believe the Hype: The 21 Biggest Technology Flops
The paperless office

It's not known exactly when this dream of marketers and technology vendors emerged, although the Christian Science Monitor suggested in a 2005 article that the term "was probably first coined in a 1966 article in the Harvard Business Review in reference to the emergence of digital data storage."

Just as futurists in the 1950s boldly but inaccurately predicted that computers would cut our work days in half, offices without paper have turned out to be a pipe dream. A book published by MIT Press in 2002 called The Myth of the Paperless Office found that e-mail caused a 40% increase in paper use in many organizations.

True, the role of office paper has been changing recently. Most large organizations now depend on digital, not paper, storage of documents. And the Christian Science Monitor found that sales of plain white office paper are, indeed, leveling off. But even if office paper consumption is leveling, take a look around your office: Is it paperless yet? Will it be paperless anytime soon? We didn't think so.
Reminds me of a cartoon I saw in the 1980s. A couple of guys survey a wall covered by file cabinets. One says to the other proudly, "Those are the findings from our paperless office task force."
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daryll40
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I did it too! And I recommend it!

Post by daryll40 »

I went paperless about a year ago. It's the greatest!

What I did was to scan only important documents that will definitely be needed in the future. Like "buy" tickets to create basis documentation for taxable investments. I also scanned in financial account statements and tax records for the past 3 years. Anything older than that I kept in paper format but did sift thru it and chucked the junk.

The key to being successful, however, is to have a good organizational set up and to scan/download new stuff as it comes in. Statements, tax returns, Forms 1099, annual reports on life insurance policies, etc. And yes, the best part about it is not the huge gain from getting rid of so much cluttery paper, but in being able to FIND STUFF EASILY.

Again, to make it work you must keep after it and scan/download regularly. But the benefits are huge. :P
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Post by phartizan »

How far are the "multiple locations" from each other? I'm thinking in terms of some local disaster (hurricane/flood/fire). Have you considered some offsite data storage possibilities? (Encrypted if you're worried about snooping.)
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Post by ataloss »

I use Mozy.com online backup. Free for 2 gigs. (and I mkae DVDs)
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Post by daryll40 »

I make DVDs also as well as have a 4 gig flash drive. If the computer dies in a flood or fire, perhaps the flash drive will survive. I put an updated DVD into my safe deposit box at a bank about 4 miles from here as well as keep a recent copy here at home away from the computer. If something more terrible than that happens (like a KATRINA or 9/11, heaven forbid) I guess I am in trouble. That being said, the odds of losing all data are miniscule compared to how it was before when it was just papers in file cabinets and boxes. I guess I outta, at the very least, send an encrypted DVD to my relatives in California every now and then.
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Post by BigFoot48 »

If you're a youngster, I'd be concerned about being able to access and read those records in 20-40 years, should that be necessary. I'd store a copy of a PDF reader program with your files, which I would store on multiple hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and online (in encrypted format). I would document that in a plain text file and on paper.

My external hard drive, which gets automated backups of important data files daily, goes into my fire resistant safe when we go on trips.

I seem to recall reading recently the problems NASA had in viewing video from the moon landings, and think how smart those guys were!
Retired | Two-time in top-10 in Bogleheads S&P500 contest; 14-time loser
Nitsuj
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Re: Costs

Post by Nitsuj »

Target2019 wrote:Wife turned off paper copies. Now she prints a copy to balance each month. Costs about $1.00 for ink and paper.
Sounds like it's time for a laser printer.
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Post by jeff mc »

ataloss wrote:I use Mozy.com online backup. Free for 2 gigs. (and I mkae DVDs)
thx for tip, attilossa. mozy is currently pulling over just under 2 GB of my private info to read, sell, snoop, ID theft it, etc. i should pry read how they do it for 'free' before jumping in there, but oh, well. i assume they try to upsell the freebies like us to the for-fee higher limit account, or get money from business who use it, or start charging down the road.

in any case, doing what i just did would give heart palpitations to many (most?) diehards, based on earlier M* discussions around account aggregators like yodlee, screen scrapers, account security concerns, etc. oh, well, convenience over security.

i have a flatbed scanner, and also thought i would scan in key docs as PDFs and then shred the old paper relics. didn't happen. too slow, too many staples, didn't want to get rid of original really important papers (seals, certificates). instead, i just pared down my papers, stopped getting paper statements in the first place, keep PDFs i get online when needed, and create PDFs immediately (from credit reports, from brokerage houses, etc). so, that's my advice... i think you'll find you really don't need 90% of the papers saved that you already own. just keep the year-end statements, the summary reports, the key tax docs, and shred the rest.
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dryfly
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Post by dryfly »

phartizan wrote:How far are the "multiple locations" from each other? I'm thinking in terms of some local disaster (hurricane/flood/fire). Have you considered some offsite data storage possibilities? (Encrypted if you're worried about snooping.)
Personally I store on-site in a fire resistant gun safe. Off-site in my bank safety deposit site. I do not encrypt these copies, but if one were to send to relatives, etc., it would be a good idea. I cannot get excited about internet storage but I can see the benefit. I'm just too paranoid!

I had thought about the idea of a copy of Acrobat Reader on the cd/dvd. At my age 20-25 years is my max target, but might make it easy for my survivors to read if needed.

I'm sure there will always be certain documents that some folks want to save in hardcopy. I will talk to my CPA next week to find out about "original" receipts or other things the IRS will not accept copies of.
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Post by Nitsuj »

dryfly wrote:I had thought about the idea of a copy of Acrobat Reader on the cd/dvd. At my age 20-25 years is my max target, but might make it easy for my survivors to read if needed.
A computer able to use the executable might be a good idea, too.
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Post by kramer »

Don't worry about the storage size of your file format. A single DVD will hold a lifetime's worth of documents with room to spare.

About once a decade and probably more often, you will probably need to change the file storage format and the storage media for your entire document inventory. This means converting all your old files and resaving them in a newer format (or multiple formats, there is plenty of space), and possibly on a new media (tapes to floppy disks to CDs to DVDs to whatever is next). You will probably also have to change your encryption technology at least that often.

DVD media deteriorates, often quite rapidly. Here is detailed info on which DVD media to purchase and expectations about media lifetime:

http://www.raddr-pages.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=3098

Also, in that thread are links to recent NY Times and WSJ articles explaining and comparing on-line backup services. The WSJ article is a reprint, so no paid subscription required.

I think that media are so cheap compared to the work involved, that I would not spare expense (I plan to go paperless in the near future) and would use multiple ways of storing (thumb drive, DVD, network storage, etc.).


Kramer
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daryll40
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Post by daryll40 »

One other thought that essentially "backs up" what others said here: It's a good idea to keep all data "live" on a currently useable hard drive, all the time. The idea of the backups is just in case the live hard drive dies. And backups should be replaced periodically...I agree that making a backup of old stuff on DVD and putting it in a safe deposit box for 25 years untouched is probably going to yield disappointment if that data ever has to be retrieved.

Along those same lines, yes, files will have to be updated to future programs. I remember early wordprocessing files that I had to upgrade to WORDPERFECT then to MS WORD. The future will be the same. I suspect, however, that WORD and ADOBE are such standards now, with so many zillions of files created already, that future programs will be designed to automatically be able to read todays files and offer to convert them, as needed, to the new format.

Again, with just a little organization and planning and maintenance, paperless filing greatly REDUCES the risk of losing data versus paper. :lol:
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Question about DVD degredation

Post by daryll40 »

Question about CD-ROM and DVD degredation. It was mentioned here that DVD data will degrade. While I would not just make a DVD backup and forget about it for 25 years, I do have to point out that I have music CDs created as far back as 1986 that still work fine.

Why would laser burned data degrade?
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Re: Question about DVD degredation

Post by Nitsuj »

daryll40 wrote:Question about CD-ROM and DVD degredation. It was mentioned here that DVD data will degrade. While I would not just make a DVD backup and forget about it for 25 years, I do have to point out that I have music CDs created as far back as 1986 that still work fine.

Why would laser burned data degrade?
You had a CD burner in 1986? Burners weren't readily available until the 90s, and they were very expensive early on.

Unlike pressed CDs/DVDs, ‘burnt’ CDs/DVDs can eventually ‘fade’, due to five things that effect the quality of CD media: Sealing method, reflective layer, organic dye makeup, where it was manufactured, and your storage practices (please keep all media out of direct sunlight, in a nice cool dry dark place, in acid-free plastic containers; this will triple the lifetime of any media).
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Post by daryll40 »

Ah. I did not realize that home-made CDs/DVDs were different than the factory made ones. :oops: I was referring to commercially made music CDs from when CD music first became readily available...about 1986ish or so. Thanks for the clarification. :wink:
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dryfly
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Post by dryfly »

kramer wrote:Don't worry about the storage size of your file format. A single DVD will hold a lifetime's worth of documents with room to spare.

About once a decade and probably more often, you will probably need to change the file storage format and the storage media for your entire document inventory. This means converting all your old files and resaving them in a newer format (or multiple formats, there is plenty of space), and possibly on a new media (tapes to floppy disks to CDs to DVDs to whatever is next). You will probably also have to change your encryption technology at least that often.

DVD media deteriorates, often quite rapidly. Here is detailed info on which DVD media to purchase and expectations about media lifetime:

http://www.raddr-pages.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=3098

Also, in that thread are links to recent NY Times and WSJ articles explaining and comparing on-line backup services. The WSJ article is a reprint, so no paid subscription required.

I think that media are so cheap compared to the work involved, that I would not spare expense (I plan to go paperless in the near future) and would use multiple ways of storing (thumb drive, DVD, network storage, etc.).


Kramer
Kramer,

Very good info on media, and seems rational if one is going to burn the disk and forget about it. However, it seems like most any brand DVD's could be used since I would be updating files and changing disks once a year. Certainly, one would want to make a least 2 copies of the disks in addition to live data on the hard drive.

Purchasing media to last 20 years may be overkill since we are seeing tech changes so rapidly who knows what the storage media of choice may be in 10 years.

As was stated, Adobe and Word are so standard today it seems unreasonable to think they will not continue to be for a long time or that conversion programs will not be readily available.

It's just hard to make that decision to throw away years of papers, but I gotta just do it!

Jerry
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Post by phartizan »

dryfly wrote:As was stated, Adobe and Word are so standard today it seems unreasonable to think they will not continue to be for a long time or that conversion programs will not be readily available.
I would certainly hope so, particularly since that's what .pdf files are supposed to do. On the other hand, believe it or not, I had trouble converting files from the MS/DOS version of Word even to the early Windows versions. :x
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kramer
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Post by kramer »

Kramer,

Very good info on media, and seems rational if one is going to burn the disk and forget about it. However, it seems like most any brand DVD's could be used since I would be updating files and changing disks once a year. Certainly, one would want to make a least 2 copies of the disks in addition to live data on the hard drive.

Purchasing media to last 20 years may be overkill since we are seeing tech changes so rapidly who knows what the storage media of choice may be in 10 years.

As was stated, Adobe and Word are so standard today it seems unreasonable to think they will not continue to be for a long time or that conversion programs will not be readily available.

It's just hard to make that decision to throw away years of papers, but I gotta just do it!

Jerry
If you are updating the media each year or couple of years, then you are probably fine with any name brand media. On the other hand, the media cost is virtually zero so might as well go with something reliable.

On conversion programs, you will probably be OK for a decade or so. Longer term, you will absolutely need to convert all archived files. You don't want to be looking at Wordstar files for your special ID tax basis records in the year 2020. Or have an image conversion program that only runs on Windows Vista when the thrice updated Windows World comes out in 2023 that has long since broken compatibility with stored application binaries you stored in 2008 and requires on-line licensing verification for software, anyway, even if it did run.

As someone who has been in the computer business for 15 years, my advice is not to ignore technological obsolescence and just realize that file and storage media conversions are a basic part of all long term archivals and require vigilance on our part.

I like the earlier advice, too, about sifting through paper records. I know that most of mine are superfluous. I plan to sift through them next month before scanning (I am semi-retiring next week :D ).

Kramer
Fclevz
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Paper Rules!

Post by Fclevz »

kramer wrote:...my advice is not to ignore technological obsolescence and just realize that file and storage media conversions are a basic part of all long term archivals and require vigilance on our part.
The idea of going paperless is intriguing, but definitely presents a conundrum. The only file format you can be certain won't be obsolete years from now is...paper! :D

Cheers,
Fred
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kramer
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Re: Paper Rules!

Post by kramer »

Fclevz wrote:
kramer wrote:...my advice is not to ignore technological obsolescence and just realize that file and storage media conversions are a basic part of all long term archivals and require vigilance on our part.
The idea of going paperless is intriguing, but definitely presents a conundrum. The only file format you can be certain won't be obsolete years from now is...paper! :D

Cheers,
Fred
Fred, you are, of course, correct :D I think that when I winnow down my papers, they will be surprisingly small. Even all of my relevant health records are probably less than 100 pages. So I think I will probably save all of the essential paper.

I have an ulterior motive for going paperless, and that is accessing the information from overseas.

Long term information security is another issue. The final shares that I sell will probably be the first ones that I purchased due to specific ID selling. This may span a period of 50 years. I would hate to lose old cost basis records or schedule D's along the way.

So I guess I am thinking of this as being supplemental, not a replacement, for paper.

Kramer
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Post by hwhuang »

I'm all paperless at this point. Wherever I can, I will make sure all credit card, bank, and brokerage statements are electronic. I keep everything on my HD, and backed up to my other machines periodically. It also helps if you burn it on CD just in case. Only cost is a blank cd. As for the scanner, I use the Fujitsu ScanSnap. I love the device, just load and press scan. It scans directly to a PDF, and even has the function to make the PDF searchable. It'll take some time especially if you have a lot of documents, but its well worth it.
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Bylo Selhi
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Re: Paper Rules!

Post by Bylo Selhi »

Fclevz wrote:The idea of going paperless is intriguing, but definitely presents a conundrum. The only file format you can be certain won't be obsolete years from now is...paper! :D
Yabbut, paper can get lost, stolen or go up in smoke as the result of a fire. I don't know anyone who routinely "backs up" their paper records by copying them and then "stores them offsite" in case of disaster, nor of people who "encrypt" their paper records so they're useless to a thief, all of which is easily and routinely done with electronic records.

As for the persistence of PDF, there are simply too many applications that depend on it that it will be around for decades. While it's true that if you do the default install of, say, MS Word, it won't be able to read very early versions of Word documents, say from the DOS era, if you do a custom install and select all the relevant import filters, I think you'll find that the latest Word can read stuff that was created with Word for DOS v1 (which IIRC came out ~1984.)
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Post by tat2ng »

For more discussion of this topic, see this previous conversation.
I have been downloading statements for several years now, and love that more financial institutions are migrating towards this option. But, I still have a couple bills or monthly statements that allow me to view the file online and print it, but don't offer an option to save the file as a .pdf, so I used to print the bill/statement, and then use my office scanner to make .pdf copies. Just recently, though, I found this free .pdf writer, that I've downloaded to my computer. http://www.cutepdf.com/

Instead of printing to my printer, I select the cute pdf printer, and it then lets me name the .pdf file it creates, which I then store in the correct folder on my hard drive. For me, it saves a few steps of walking to our office scanner, but for someone with no access to a scanner, this might help you get started. I have a large external hard drive with a backup software that I backup everything to every couple days.

For any mail that I get that I want to keep long-term, I usually file it, and then in January, I will make 1 scanned .pdf file (again using our office scanner, which can scan a ton of pages into one file).

I would love to be totally paperless, but I don't see it happening for me for a while -- too much stuff still comes in the mail.

Thad
I am definitely moving closer and closer towards "paperless". I download anything and everything I can. I use that "Cute PDF" printer to convert anything else while I'm on the computer, and I use my office scanner to scan everything else.

I think the hardest part for someone without access to a scanner that can process multiple pages would be to convert all of the boxes of paperwork that you already have saved and stored to electronic storage.

Thad

edit: I fixed the link to start at the top of the linked conversation.
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Going Paperless GROSSLY OVERRATED

Post by mephistophles »

Don't waste the time necessary to put your paper into an electronic medium. Instead, save only what paper is necessary and discard unneeded paper as you file new paper. Recycle the old paper. Only the ego benefits from going paperless.

Regards,

ole meph
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daryll40
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Post by daryll40 »

Regarding the comment about trying to read WORDSTAR files today:

Remember, WORDSTAR and other such wordprocessors from that era were from an era where there was no single standard and computerization was still a luxury. Today .pdf and WORD files are the standard and gazillions of said files are created every day. It's a good bet that even if you don't update your archived files, in 20-30 and even 50 years there will still be readily available software to read todays stuff without too much hassle. I suspect that the next generations will even be able to scan your entire hard drive and convert EVERYTHING to the current format.

I still maintain that a paperless system properly backed up reduces risk of permanent loss of data MANYFOLD versus the old time file cabinet.
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Post by Mordoch »

daryll40 wrote: Remember, WORDSTAR and other such wordprocessors from that era were from an era where there was no single standard and computerization was still a luxury. Today .pdf and WORD files are the standard and gazillions of said files are created every day. It's a good bet that even if you don't update your archived files, in 20-30 and even 50 years there will still be readily available software to read todays stuff without too much hassle. I suspect that the next generations will even be able to scan your entire hard drive and convert EVERYTHING to the current format.
PDF files are better, (although you should try to specifically utilize the archival version of PDF files for what you're talking about doing) but the reality is old Word files can't always be read properly by the newest version of Word right now. Paper documents that are scanned will tend to be more complicated than a really basic word file, making conversion more likely to be a problem in the future. Just because a really basic document from the past can still be converted does not mean this will be true in the future with the more complex documents you're starting with, especially if you're actually talking about a greater time difference than currently exists for the various versions of Microsoft Word. Among other issues Microsoft effectively deliberately broke things with newer versions to a degree to prevent competitors from being able to easily able to read Microsoft Word files. Incidentally Open Office and the Open Document Format which is also utilized by other word processor programs is increasingly proving a serious rival for Word with some governments and large businesses adopting it, so Word's status as an absolute standard is less secure than you might think. If you don't update for 30 or 50 years, there is also the problem of not having the hardware to actually read from your storage device anymore. How many people have a drive that can read the old large 5 &1/4 inch floppy disks today? You're MASSIVELY understating the problems of data obsolescence if you're choosing to go to paperless storage for the long term. For documents you may need in 30 years, this is really a very serious concern.

Another issue to emphasize is some CDRs may experience deterioration and data loss in 5 years or less. (DVDRs are also likely to experience similar problems although there is less data on them at the moment.) Paper treated remotely acceptably won't have the same problems.
Last edited by Mordoch on Sat Apr 07, 2007 6:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by ataloss »

I had a bunch of old PFS professional write files that I converted to rtf last year. Although early windows versions seemed to have the capability to run dos programs this ability seems to be waning. I think you have to keep your eyes open for changing file formats (and disk drive sizes- few of us have computers that will handle 5.25 floppies anymore)

Regarding tax forms, I keep pdfs of my federal and state 1040s from turbotax. Although I am keeping the paper 1099s for a few years I downloaded the pdfs from my various brokers. and shred the paper versions after 3 years.
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SpringMan
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Post by SpringMan »

I use jpeg files. I don't have Adobe PDF writer option with my scanner. We inherited boxes and boxes of family photos from both my wife's and my parents. I tried to scan and organize them, a formidable task. We use Thumbs Plus software to manage the images (www.cerious.com). Ended up only scanning photos of people that we knew. Still have the the boxes, just can't justify throwing away photos. Reciepts and financial data could work the same way. Here is a tip, get a decent digital camera with macro capability. It is often easier and quicker to just take photos of the documents (or in my case photos). I got excellent results using my digital camera shooting slides projected on a screen in my darkened basement. Be sure to supress the flash. My scanner has a slide capability with a slide holder that overlays the flatbed but this is slow and tedious. When I do a mail in rebate, I save the copies of the receipts and barcodes in jpeg form, then delete them once I receive the rebate. Adobe Acrobat PDFs are cool. The ThumbPlus software can be configured to thumbnail the top page and allows opening and paging through them. I just can't create the PDF files, they come from other sources. One thing about jpegs, that format does not seem to be going away any time soon.
Good Luck.
Best Wishes, SpringMan
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Bylo Selhi
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Post by Bylo Selhi »

Mordoch wrote:How many people have a drive that can read the old large 5 &1/4 inch floppy disks today?
I do, along with an original IBM XT (made in 1983; serial number ~4000.) The drive alone is useless if you don't have a PC with the appropriate interface to operate the drive and read the data. Just try to connect a Tandon floppy drive to a modern PC. I also have some floppies that I created in the mid-80s that are still 100% readable on said XT.

In any case, there's one point that's been missed so far (at least I don't recall anyone having mentioned it yet.) Each generation of data recording hardware and media is capable of handling an order of magnitude more data than the previous. What people need to do is to create an annual backup that includes all of the data they've recorded previously. So the backup for year-end 2006 would include a copy of the backup for 2005 (which includes the backup for 2004 (which includes 2003 (which includes 2002... ))) A single 4.7GB DVD can easily store a lifetime of such data.

Now there's still the issue of data formats. However, even if in 10 or 20 years you no longer have software that can read some old, obsolete data format, rest assured that there will be data recovery services that can. They may not be cheap, but if it's critical that you get back some spreadsheet or document then the cost will be well worth it.

P.S. People talk about the longevity of paper. That may be true if you can actually keep it. How many people, especially those who moved a lot and/or have been through a natural disaster or fire, etc., still have paper records, including tax, financial, investment information from 20 or 30 or more years ago?
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daryll40
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Post by daryll40 »

Not only that, but even if you HAVE a paper document, how often is it that you can't find it?

I agree that the key here is two things:

1. Always have a live (on a working hard drive inside a computer) version of everything ever saved.

2. Keep tuned into software format change and be ready to convert to the new formats as they evolve. As I said above, I suspect newer software will have a function that scans hard drives (or whatever media or folders told to scan) and will automatically convert-to-new-format everything on there automatically.
Fclevz
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PDF

Post by Fclevz »

It looks like PDF may indeed be the way to go, now that Adobe is going to release the full PDF specification for the purpose of industry standardization.

Cheers,
Fred
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tetractys
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Paperless Campers

Post by tetractys »

Here in the beautiful forests of the Pacific Northwest we have a plant with large soft fuzzy leaves for paperless campers. Don't know the scientific name; but we call it simply, "natures toilet paper."
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Teetlebaum
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Re: Paperless Campers

Post by Teetlebaum »

tetractys wrote:Here in the beautiful forests of the Pacific Northwest we have a plant with large soft fuzzy leaves for paperless campers. Don't know the scientific name; but we call it simply, "natures toilet paper."
Watch out! I heard of a paperless hiker who grabbed some leaves to use as "nature's toilet paper". Boy was he sorry! It's no better than going digital! :roll:
mptfan
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Post by mptfan »

I went *mostly* paperless about 2 years ago, but I have yet to scan one single piece of paper! Almost all the important financial documents that I need are available for download in electronic PDF format. For example, Vanguard prepares quarterly statements that are available for download from their website (after you login obviously). I save them using the following format so that they show up in date order..."IRA 2006-3" which tells me it's the IRA statement for march 2006. Following this naming convention, all of my digital PDF files are saved in a subfolder for that particular account, and they show up in date order by date of the statement. I do the same for credit union statements, brokerage statements, and Amex statements.

I make a backup of my portfolio statements every month or so onto a USB memory stick.
Nitsuj
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Post by Nitsuj »

mptfan wrote:I went *mostly* paperless about 2 years ago, but I have yet to scan one single piece of paper! Almost all the important financial documents that I need are available for download in electronic PDF format. For example, Vanguard prepares quarterly statements that are available for download from their website (after you login obviously). I save them using the following format so that they show up in date order..."IRA 2006-3" which tells me it's the IRA statement for march 2006.
Do you use a version of Acrobat that lets you save the PDFs with the form data?

For some reason Vanguard treats their PDFs as forms and not as documents, so the regular PDF reader can't actually save the data.
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Murray Boyd
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Post by Murray Boyd »

I'm not there yet. I keeping all my brokerage statements in PDF because I can just download them. I stuff my bank statements in a cardboard box, when I remember. I'd love to get my taxes on PDF.

This was interesting, but I would do it differently:

http://www.onlamp.com/lpt/a/6772
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CyberBob
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PDF Creator

Post by CyberBob »

SpringMan wrote:I don't have Adobe PDF writer option...
If you would like one, Sourceforge has an open-source PDF Creator that installs as a printer driver.

Bob
mptfan
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Post by mptfan »

Nitsuj wrote:
mptfan wrote:I went *mostly* paperless about 2 years ago, but I have yet to scan one single piece of paper! Almost all the important financial documents that I need are available for download in electronic PDF format. For example, Vanguard prepares quarterly statements that are available for download from their website (after you login obviously). I save them using the following format so that they show up in date order..."IRA 2006-3" which tells me it's the IRA statement for march 2006.
Do you use a version of Acrobat that lets you save the PDFs with the form data?

For some reason Vanguard treats their PDFs as forms and not as documents, so the regular PDF reader can't actually save the data.
Nitsuj, it doesn't matter what version of Acrobat you use. You simply open the electronic PDF file on the website, and while it is open, you select "Save as" from the file menu, and then give it a name and navigate to the file folder where you want to save it. Once that is done, you can open and view the document using any version of Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader.
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CyberBob
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Vanguard and PDF's

Post by CyberBob »

Nitsuj wrote:For some reason Vanguard treats their PDFs as forms and not as documents, so the regular PDF reader can't actually save the data.
That annoys the heck out of me too! I emailed Vanguard about it, but they never replied.
mptfan wrote:You simply open the electronic PDF file on the website, and while it is open, you select "Save as" from the file menu...
Nitsuj is correct and is referring to Vanguard tax documents. The permissions given to the file specifically state that the form can be saved, but the data cannot, and saving a blank form isn't exactly useful. You can work around it by using a print-driver PDF creator to save the form with the data, but the problem remains that Vanguard applied incorrect rights to those forms.
Clicking a link to a Vanguard tax form gives you an .fdf file, which is an input form file. It doesn't give you a .pdf.
I'm assuming the problem applies to everyone. Do your tax forms save with the data?

Bob
Last edited by CyberBob on Mon Apr 16, 2007 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Nitsuj
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Post by Nitsuj »

I know how to save a document.

The regular reader does not allow you to save the form data.

You can save the form just fine, but it's blank.
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CyberBob
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Vanguard FDF files

Post by CyberBob »

Nitsuj wrote:I know how to save a document.

The regular reader does not allow you to save the form data.

You can save the form just fine, but it's blank.
According to the Vanguard technical FAQ's page, they think it's a feature, not a problem :D
Vanguard Technical FAQ wrote:Whenever I try to save my tax form to my computer, it saves as a blank form. Why?

The 1099 mutual fund tax forms available to view and print from our website are in Adobe's Forms Document Format (FDF) file format. Adobe did not design this format to be saved locally on your computer—it is specifically for displaying and printing the information.

If you wish to save an electronic copy, you can take a screenshot of the 1099 form to save a picture of the form locally.
Rather than save it in a picture format, I would use an open-source PDF Creator print driver to save it as an actual PDF.

Still, it stinks that you have to take this extra step. Vanguard blaming it on an Adobe limitation is bogus. All of their other forms are straight-up PDF's. Why do the tax forms have to be different? They want everyone to go paperless, yet their downloadable forms aren't standardized?!?

Bob
Nitsuj
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Re: Vanguard FDF files

Post by Nitsuj »

CyberBob wrote:According to the Vanguard technical FAQ's page, they think it's a feature, not a problem :D
Vanguard Technical FAQ wrote:If you wish to save an electronic copy, you can take a screenshot of the 1099 form to save a picture of the form locally.
The question is, what moron thinks that that is a feature?

I'll tell you the real reason they do it that way. It's a lost easier to spit out the same PDF file to everyone and only update small portions with a quick database pull than it is to store a PDF for every version for every person.

But anyone that thinks you can easily go paperless with a screenshot (yes, a flipping screenshot) is going to be sadly mistaken. I certainly hope people that save these documents look at them instead of assuming that it saves the data.
mptfan
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Post by mptfan »

When I described saving electronic pdf files, I was referring to Vanguard's quarterly account statements, NOT tax forms.
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goggles
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Post by goggles »

This thread has convinced me to stick with paper.

I was thinking about my computer from 10 years ago. First, it was a piece of junk that repeatedly required intensive repair. Major data loss. Second, it is utterly obsolete and most of its files are ancient and probably unopenable. Their information is effectively lost.

The papers are still there, filed and accessible in my filing cabinet. They take up less than one shelf.

Papers it is.
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CyberBob
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Re: Vanguard FDF files

Post by CyberBob »

Nitsuj wrote:But anyone that thinks you can easily go paperless with a screenshot...
It is indeed annoying how Vanguard did that, but all is not lost.
Have you tried the open-source PDF Creator available over at SourceForge?

The reason I ask is that it will allow you to save the Vanguard tax forms as PDF, rather than a screenshot. And, simply by 'printing' to a PDF file, it will allow you to save any document as a PDF. That's something that Windows can't do natively, but is certainly handy. (I'm assuming you are running Windows).

Bob
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