The Paperless Life

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
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LuigiLikesPizza
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The Paperless Life

Post by LuigiLikesPizza » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:19 pm

I bank online and have gone paperless here and there, but now in full gear trying to streamline and go paperless everywhere as I'll be mobile for several months.

I've never had a problem getting a hold of a 2-3 year old statement or tax related info - but have never tried to go back farther - like 5-10 years.

For those who are totally paperless, any tips? anything you know now that you wished you knew then?

Thanks

Gryphon
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Gryphon » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:30 pm

Don't rely on institutions to hold onto your statements forever - they won't. If you want to go paperless, make a point of downloading copies of your statements every month (or every quarter, or some other regular period, though I wouldn't go longer than quarterly myself) and filing them away somewhere on your computer. I learned this the hard way about 15 years ago when I moved my Roth IRA from one financial company to another. The company I was leaving cut off my online access as well, leaving me with few records of that account.

A few months shouldn't be an issue, though, so if you like you can wait & download everything when you get back from your travels. But I wouldn't let it go more than that.

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DaftInvestor
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by DaftInvestor » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:59 pm

Agree with prior poster. Download all PDFs and put it on a nice small portable hard drive (or two hard-drives so you will have a backup).
Organize into folders by Bank/Broker name.
If its just documentation you need in a mobile fashion you can fit it ALL on a small USB flash stick.

2015
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by 2015 » Thu Apr 26, 2018 3:16 pm

I've coupled what I refer to as The Digital Life (as opposed to Analog) with Extreme Simplicity. I have been strongly influenced by all that I've read in a plethora of fields outside investing, personal finance, and economics with respect to the merits of simplicity in all facets of life. I have virtually no paper anymore, and don't download statements because I've never needed them (my reconciliations are ongoing). My finances are simple and consolidated with at most 3 large institutions (banks and VG). Doing so allows me to eschew many of the complexity threads here that contribute nothing to the short and long term quality of my life. I've also eliminated just about every possession I haven't touched in the last year. Doing so allows me to exchange old, personal, historical stories for unlimited freedom to shape a new future of possibility unencumbered by habitual thinking of the past.

Charlie Munger has said many mistakes in life are made by forgetting what we are trying to do. I'm trying to feast as much as possible on the joys to be found in everyday living, not "perfect" some clever investment strategy. Digitization and Simplicity are my foundation.

DetroitRick
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by DetroitRick » Thu Apr 26, 2018 3:24 pm

I gradually moved to being paperless over a number of years. Started around 2006, fully switched over by 2010. It's great - easier to find things, and my filing cabinet isn't choked with bills and statements anymore. My incentive was convenience and space, but we also (neighborhood-wide) were experiencing mail theft in 2006 and I wanted to get away from having important stuff in my curbside mailbox. So that was the final push I needed to do this.

Like people have said, each source/company will have a different limit on online availability of historical statements. I just grabbed whatever I could and did not bother to scan pdf's for the really old stuff. Since then, the only thing I have considered going back and scanning is my old stash of broker statements prior to 2006. But have been too lazy to do so thus far, and they don't take up much room anyway. But when you start, at least consider downloading whatever is available history-wise on each website. At that point, it's just a "click".

The biggest thing I learned is to figure out a good organization plan first (file directories) and a simple-to-remember (& consistent) file naming convention. Makes things easy to find and easy to migrate to other platforms in the future (different pc's, different cloud providers). It's an individual thing, but I split my directories into: banks, credit cards, brokers, insurance eob's, bills, taxes, and trade confirms (7 directories). And I use file naming conventions that include institution name, month and year.

One other thing I found useful in going paperless - doing the same with user manuals. Whenever I buy something complex enough to warrant it, I grab a pdf of the manual (off the mfr's website) and move it to a cloud directory. Between not having to hunt for a manual and having Adobe's search function, this has saved me a ton of time.

The only thing I haven't done is shift all this to the cloud (except the user manuals, which are). I would, and might, but haven't had any real incentive so far. And , of course, I have a thorough backup routine for all this stuff - same as with my pc and devices in general.

One other thing I do is to keep one hard copy of every open account and bill source in a physical file. So every 12 months or so, I print one out and stick it in the folder. So if I get hit by that proverbial bus, my wife can see who gets paid and who issues statements (plus she has Quicken).

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JoMoney
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by JoMoney » Thu Apr 26, 2018 3:29 pm

Don't rely on your bank/broker to keep your statements. I keep them in a folder for each year that I archive with my tax paperwork.
If you have a smartphone with a reasonably good camera it can be more convenient than a scanner for converting your paper documents to digital records. If you use 'google drive' the app has feature to 'scan to pdf' using your phones camera.
"To achieve satisfactory investment results is easier than most people realize; to achieve superior results is harder than it looks." - Benjamin Graham

Freefun
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Freefun » Thu Apr 26, 2018 3:44 pm

Evernote for everything. Since it scans everything it's easy to search.
Remember when you wanted what you currently have?

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N1CKV
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by N1CKV » Thu Apr 26, 2018 3:53 pm

I follow the "Enron Method" of file management... If I am absolutely not required to retain it, I destroy it.
I have met a lot of people that claim to love money, but they also seem to be the same people that are in the biggest hurry to get rid of it.

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Ice-9
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Ice-9 » Thu Apr 26, 2018 5:20 pm

Adding to what previous posters said, I keep my archive of downloaded PDFs organized by broker/bank saved in an encrypted container using free VeraCrypt software.

https://www.veracrypt.fr/en/Downloads.html

I keep the encrypted container in a cloud folder so it's automatically accessible from any computer with VeraCrypt and the password. The container also gets backed up to a couple places on my system and to Backblaze cloud backup service.

prairieman
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by prairieman » Thu Apr 26, 2018 6:16 pm

I recently went paperless and auto-pay for all bills (insurance, utilities, phone, internet, TV, credit cards). In addition, I have automatic deposits made to my checking account to make sure that the money is always adequate to meet expenses. The only bills I need to remember to pay are real estate and quarterly estimated taxes.
However, I am not entirely paperless. I check my investments monthly and download and print my investment portfolio quarterly. Much of my net worth hinges on data stored in the computers of banks and brokerage houses. If I were to check on-line some day and find it all gone, I'd want something recent to show to the police about my lost assets. I could store them as PDF files and be completely paperless, but history has shown that I tend to lose thumb drives - and that sometimes computers die suddenly. Thus, I print and lock those documents in a file.

Amanda999
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Amanda999 » Thu Apr 26, 2018 6:35 pm

I'm all paperless. Save everything to my own computer (never rely on broker/bank to retain for you); I back up to 4 external hard drives and leave 2 at a different location out of the house.

Also: I back up the most important docs to FidSafe (tax returns, cost basis in home and stocks, pdfs of iBonds and a recent statement from every bank/credit card/etc....). And set up my 2 most trusted people as persons who get access online upon my incapacity/death.

Seems that going paperless could make it harder for someone to discover your financial affairs if you become cognitively disabled or die. So be sure to think carefully about how to handle that.

Nearly A Moose
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Nearly A Moose » Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:05 pm

I'm trying to be paperless. It's weirdly hard, even in 2018. I agree in principle with the other posters who say don't rely on the institution to keep files for you. That said, I'm very bad about actually following through on this. I've managed to keep files for everything tax related (could be organized better), but so far that's it.

I'd suggest simply setting an annual "download day," and once a year go download pdf statements from every account, drop them into a folder, and be done. Make sure the folder is included in your backup strategy. I wouldn't worry one second about renaming the files. In the extremely rare case you need them, spend the time then flipping through or searching to find the ones you actually need. Perhaps you could substitute doing end of year statements instead.

I've never kept things like explanation of benefits, etc. I don't know if others recommend you do or not.
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

bluejello
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by bluejello » Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:30 pm

We've been a paperless family since 2013. LOVE it. Once you get into the habit of being paperless it's very easy.

The hardest part is going paperless in the first place. It took me about a week of EXTREMELY tedious scanning to digitize all our paper records — years of tax returns, paystubs, legal stuff, etc. I used the industrial scanner at my office that could do batch scanning, otherwise it would've been even more painful.

But once that was done, I've found keeping up with being paperless to be very easy.

My husband and I both have the app camscanner on our phones, which we use to quickly scan any important papers we get — big-ticket receipts, medical reports from the doctor, legal paperwork, etc. Basically anytime someone hands me a physical piece of paper that's important in any way, I immediately take a photo of it and camscanner turns that photo into a PDF that I can store on Dropbox. When I'm given business cards, I immediately enter the details into my contacts and then throw away the cards.

The key is getting into the habit of scanning and throwing away paper documents right away. Otherwise, if you build up a big stack of things to scan it feels overwhelming and you never really get around to it.

Pick a central online storage destination — iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. If you have a spouse and/or kids it's much easier if everyone uses the same one. Our organization system is that we have folders for different categories (financial, medical, house, pets, kids, etc.) and then within those folders there's sub-folders by year. So if we do some repairs on the house and get a bill for that, I know it goes into the "house" > "2018" folder. That's worked well for us, you may have your own system.

Once a quarter, I download all our financial statements (paystubs, banks, credit cards, mortgage, etc.) and put them into our "financials" > "year" folder. Takes about 15 minutes total.
Last edited by bluejello on Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

AlohaJoe
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by AlohaJoe » Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:35 pm

Gryphon wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:30 pm
Don't rely on institutions to hold onto your statements forever - they won't.
Even if they do (though they rarely do)....you might not stick with the same institutions for 40 years. If you decide to leave Vanguard 20 years from now -- even if all their statements are online and available -- it won't be ver much fun downloading by hand 300+ monthly statements, quarterly rolls up, annual tax documents, etc.

GuyInFL
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by GuyInFL » Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:46 pm

I've been happy with www.filethis.com

It supports many companies and will automatically download statements to your PC. Of course you have to provide your logon credentials, much like Quicken.
6 connections are free, 12 connections are $20 per year, and 30 connections are $50 per year. If you have a vanguard account with a Roth IRA, Taxable Account, and an Coverdell Education Savings Account, that's one connection.

Another benefit of having all your files in pdf, is the ability to perform a keyword search all the pdfs rather quickly.

Factor1
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Factor1 » Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:59 pm

Amanda999 wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 6:35 pm
I'm all paperless. Save everything to my own computer (never rely on broker/bank to retain for you); I back up to 4 external hard drives and leave 2 at a different location out of the house.

Also: I back up the most important docs to FidSafe (tax returns, cost basis in home and stocks, pdfs of iBonds and a recent statement from every bank/credit card/etc....). And set up my 2 most trusted people as persons who get access online upon my incapacity/death.

Seems that going paperless could make it harder for someone to discover your financial affairs if you become cognitively disabled or die. So be sure to think carefully about how to handle that.
I am also paperless and have been so for years. It is great. I too save everything to my computer. I use Dropbox. Dropbox is very simple and easy to use. I have a Dropbox folder on my computer and I save everything to this Dropbox folder. You can create folders, sub folders, sub sub folders, etc. under the Dropbox folder. Since Dropbox is cloud storage, everything on your computer that is in the Dropbox folder is automatically in the cloud without having to specifically back it up. You can share a file and/or folder in Dropbox with other people. I have the Dropbox app on my iphone so I always have access to all of my files when I am away from my computer. I pay $100 per year for Dropbox and I get 1 terabyte of storage space. I currently have 100 gigabytes of information on Dropbox. That 100 gigabytes consists of 36,000 files. 2,600 of the files are documents and the rest are photos.

I also do a daily encrypted backup using Norton which comes free with my Comcast subscription. Once a month I also do a manual backup to a small My Passport portable hard drive. So, I have the computer, Dropbox, Norton, and My Passport.

I just looked at Fidsafe (from Fidelity) and the capacity is 5 gigabytes or 1,000 files so this would not meet my needs.

As another poster mentioned, whenever a piece of paper enters my life, I decide right then whether I need/want to keep it. If yes, then I scan it that same day. If not, it gets recycled or shredded if it contains sensitive information.

I have a large Excel file which is my electronic working file that I am in every day. It serves as my electronic notepad. I have different tabs organized across many topics. In concept, it is similar to Evernote.

I use LastPass which is an online password manager. If you do not use a password manager, you should check this one out. Google has a password manager too. I also have all my passwords in the Excel file.

All my bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, monthly bills, etc. are online. I pay all my bills online using Chase bill pay. I also have a bill pay set up at Fidelity as a backup. I have all my accounts linked up so I can quickly move money around as needed.

I can remember way back when my wife paid the bills. The process...write a check, get an envelope, get stamps, stuff, enter the check into the checkbook, mail out, etc. I finally convinced her to try paying online. Once she agreed to try it out, she loved it. She wondered my she waited so long. It is basically a mindset. She never looked back.

You might as well go paperless because that is the way society and the world are moving.

rgs92
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by rgs92 » Thu Apr 26, 2018 11:30 pm

Lots of good information on this thread. Thanks to everyone. (Maybe this should be a "sticky").

bac
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by bac » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:14 am

Part of my rationale for going paperless was that getting rid of paper financial documents was becoming a problem. I had accumulated too much to shred at home, and commercial shredding can be costly. Thankfully, I was able to avail myself of free shredding by county and town governments on a couple of occasions.

stan1
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by stan1 » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:50 am

I don't keep paper but I'm also very careful about becoming a digital packrat. I am very selective about what I keep. I don't need to keep bank statements, credit card statements, medical receipts, or utility bills (although government officials view a utility bill with your name on it as proof of residence). The main documentation I keep supports cost basis and tax deductions, although starting in 2018 I will no longer itemize so taxes will get a lot simpler. I have never been able to itemize medical expenses and I stopped being able to deduct miscellaneous expenses about 20 years ago. I keep that data in Dropbox. I do keep end of year statements from investing accounts. We do keep receipts for major home improvements to track cost basis on our house since we live in a high cost of living area and could need to track basis accurately to avoid paying capital gains taxes.

I also keep a copy of significant medical test results. My physician and medical center use the Epic platform so I can usually print out a detailed report when there's a significant finding. I have seen a few situations where the hospital or Epic has chosen to change what information I have access to through the MyChart portal so when I have something with details I save it myself.

I also keep supporting documentation for credit card fraud and medical billing errors. I keep my resume, certifications, and other professional information.

I don't keep articles or anything I can readily find with a search query online. I am not a researcher by profession or hobby. If I was I'd have to retain more information myself to make sure I could find it again or it didn't disappear. If I am deciding what car to buy I might build a comparison spreadsheet but other than that I would not keep any data locally.

I find myself taking far fewer photos than I did 10 years ago. There are photos on the internet of all the places I go. If I want to reminisce about where I've been I go to Wikipedia and Google Maps. When I do take photos they are of people I know or experiences not places I visit.

I was moving photos, music, and files between free Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud accounts but then decided to consolidate with a Dropbox paid plan. I use the free version of Evernote for to do lists and notetaking. I have a nice Scansnap scanner that I've had for about 10 years and should last as long as a USB connection is supported but to be honest I only use it a few times per year now because I don't have much paper coming in. We also have a Fellowes cross cut shredder that cost about $225 when we bought it. It is mostly used for junk mail these days.

Bmac
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Bmac » Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:49 am

AlohaJoe wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:35 pm
Gryphon wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:30 pm
Don't rely on institutions to hold onto your statements forever - they won't.
Even if they do (though they rarely do)....you might not stick with the same institutions for 40 years. If you decide to leave Vanguard 20 years from now -- even if all their statements are online and available -- it won't be ver much fun downloading by hand 300+ monthly statements, quarterly rolls up, annual tax documents, etc.
Is it really necessary to keep any of these items in paper or paperless format long term? If you leave Vanguard in 20 years, what possible need would there be to have 20 years of statements or 20 year old tax documents? Particularly for accounts that have all covered shares. It seems like a waste of time to download and save the vast majority of typical statements and such (credit card, utility, bank and even brokerage accounts). I guess for me the better question is what would really be the minimal amount of these things that should be saved long term in any format?

RickBoglehead
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by RickBoglehead » Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:42 am

Some sites may only have 6 months or less of statements, so check at least quarterly.

I wouldn't store my stuff online somewhere as I'd be concerned about the security of that site. I would never give signon ability to a storage site, that's insane. I'm very careful on what I photo with my phone or tablet since Google immediately uploads it to the cloud. I move it to my PC and delete it on Google. I download roughly quarterly, and now need to review old statements and likely shred them. I dread all the statements and receipts my mother has in her house, despite me telling her I keep digital copies of her stuff.

sheepla
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by sheepla » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:10 am

Evernote!

cdu7
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by cdu7 » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:14 am

Can anyone explain why it is important to save any statements outside of buys / sells and end of year tax forms?

02nz
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by 02nz » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:16 am

I know some don't like cloud services out of privacy concerns, but I've long used OneDrive to keep my docs, including things like statements and tax returns. Syncing across devices works well, better than Google Drive in my experience.

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tractorguy
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by tractorguy » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:18 am

Bmac wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:49 am
AlohaJoe wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:35 pm
Gryphon wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:30 pm
Don't rely on institutions to hold onto your statements forever - they won't.
Even if they do (though they rarely do)....you might not stick with the same institutions for 40 years. If you decide to leave Vanguard 20 years from now -- even if all their statements are online and available -- it won't be ver much fun downloading by hand 300+ monthly statements, quarterly rolls up, annual tax documents, etc.
Is it really necessary to keep any of these items in paper or paperless format long term? If you leave Vanguard in 20 years, what possible need would there be to have 20 years of statements or 20 year old tax documents? Particularly for accounts that have all covered shares. It seems like a waste of time to download and save the vast majority of typical statements and such (credit card, utility, bank and even brokerage accounts). I guess for me the better question is what would really be the minimal amount of these things that should be saved long term in any format?
Based on my experience settling my FIL estate and helping my MIL with her taxes after selling the house they'd lived in for 50+ years, I recommend keeping a log and holding on to receipts for all home maintenance and home improvement expenses as long as you own your house. We were able to use the cost for all 3 of the water heater replacements and 2 roofs to reduce the capital gains on the house. Other than that, I follow consumer reports recommendations: https://www.consumerreports.org/taxes/h ... documents/ for paper. I don't bother scanning warranty receipts, etc., because they are just going to be thrown away in a year or two. I'm slowly moving towards digital records for home improvements although I'm not yet consistent.

I've been using Quicken for 20+ years and have all of my cost basis information in it. I do not keep the paper records to support the Quicken records. I create and download of Vanguard's Account Valuation Report at year end every year at tax time but can't say that I've ever needed it. If Vanguard were to lock me out and Quicken were to die at the same time, I've got a backup report that's at worst, 12 months out of date.

All of my computer records (including my Quicken database) has encrypted local and cloud backups.
Lorne

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KlingKlang
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by KlingKlang » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:42 am

cdu7 wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:14 am
Can anyone explain why it is important to save any statements outside of buys / sells and end of year tax forms?
A few years ago I had a major problem with billing from my health insurance company. I had a large account credit which suddenly turned into a large amount owed accompanied by overdue threats. Apparently someone had modified their accounts database directly without entering any transactions. All that the customer service representatives could tell me is "Your current balance is $xxxxx.xx" without being able to see my previous months' statements. The only thing that saved me was paper statements to send to the state insurance regulators (Yes, they wanted the originals).

BogleMelon
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by BogleMelon » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:47 am

KlingKlang wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:42 am
cdu7 wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:14 am
Can anyone explain why it is important to save any statements outside of buys / sells and end of year tax forms?
A few years ago I had a major problem with billing from my health insurance company. I had a large account credit which suddenly turned into a large amount owed accompanied by overdue threats. Apparently someone had modified their accounts database directly without entering any transactions. All that the customer service representatives could tell me is "Your current balance is $xxxxx.xx" without being able to see my previous months' statements. The only thing that saved me was paper statements to send to the state insurance regulators (Yes, they wanted the originals).
This is kind of scary!
I am now wondering, if you were paperless and thus had it as a PDF, and then printed it in colors when it was needed, wouldn't that count as "original" as well?
"One of the funny things about stock market, every time one is buying another is selling, and both think they are astute" - William Feather

gotester2000
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by gotester2000 » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:49 am

I have very few documents which I purge annually on two identical flash drives offline and need nothing else. If you are gathering too much digital stuff and storing it everywhere then what is the purpose of going paperless?

Everybody is tightly coupled with PDF format and it is a significant risk.

2015
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by 2015 » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:12 am

stan1 wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:50 am
I don't keep paper but I'm also very careful about becoming a digital packrat. I am very selective about what I keep. the

...
This.
For some, their digital life will be a reflection of how much paper they kept. For me, this defeats at least one the purposes of digitization, which is to reduce friction, complexity, and time wasting.

Lynette
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Lynette » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:43 am

I keep paper copies of all of my year-end tax returns and receipts, house maintenance and improvements. My bills are on auto pay. I have decided to simplify my financial life and only use two brokerage firms, a brick and mortar bank and one online one. I don't open credit cards for bonuses or any other type of transaction that requires additional paperwork. To me, it seems like hard work to digitize everything, keep track or it, have multiple backups and risk using the cloud. This works for me.
Last edited by Lynette on Sat Apr 28, 2018 7:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

Sophia1884
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Sophia1884 » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:47 am

bluejello wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:30 pm
We've been a paperless family since 2013. LOVE it. Once you get into the habit of being paperless it's very easy.

Pick a central online storage destination — iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. If you have a spouse and/or kids it's much easier if everyone uses the same one. Our organization system is that we have folders for different categories (financial, medical, house, pets, kids, etc.) and then within those folders there's sub-folders by year. So if we do some repairs on the house and get a bill for that, I know it goes into the "house" > "2018" folder. That's worked well for us, you may have your own system.

Once a quarter, I download all our financial statements (paystubs, banks, credit cards, mortgage, etc.) and put them into our "financials" > "year" folder. Takes about 15 minutes total.
I'd love to do this but how do you ensure the security of all that personal information in the Dropbox? There was a time when cloud drives didn't exist, what happens when they evolve to something else and are either no longer supported in favor of something else? Also, do you pay for the security/storage? I used to store pictures with an online site where I also ordered copies as needed. They were bought out and changed their system, giving customers notice of downloading all of their pictures or losing them. Not saying it's not worth it, just trying to figure out how to use the technology the best way possible, as securely as possible.

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triceratop
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by triceratop » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:08 pm

Sophia1884 wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:47 am
bluejello wrote:
Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:30 pm
We've been a paperless family since 2013. LOVE it. Once you get into the habit of being paperless it's very easy.

Pick a central online storage destination — iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. If you have a spouse and/or kids it's much easier if everyone uses the same one. Our organization system is that we have folders for different categories (financial, medical, house, pets, kids, etc.) and then within those folders there's sub-folders by year. So if we do some repairs on the house and get a bill for that, I know it goes into the "house" > "2018" folder. That's worked well for us, you may have your own system.

Once a quarter, I download all our financial statements (paystubs, banks, credit cards, mortgage, etc.) and put them into our "financials" > "year" folder. Takes about 15 minutes total.
I'd love to do this but how do you ensure the security of all that personal information in the Dropbox? There was a time when cloud drives didn't exist, what happens when they evolve to something else and are either no longer supported in favor of something else? Also, do you pay for the security/storage? I used to store pictures with an online site where I also ordered copies as needed. They were bought out and changed their system, giving customers notice of downloading all of their pictures or losing them. Not saying it's not worth it, just trying to figure out how to use the technology the best way possible, as securely as possible.
I use a GPG-encrypted folder that is shared across my computers (not using iCloud/Drive/Dropbox, but the same idea applies). One can use something like tomb on Linux, which is what I use. On less free operating systems, I do not know what one would do but I am sure it is possible.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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JoMoney
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by JoMoney » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:18 pm

I operate off of a Chromebook
I keep my current years paperwork in folder stored on personal computer, after filing taxes the folder gets archived into a strong-password protected Zip file and added to a Google drive folder and a personal thumb-drive.
"To achieve satisfactory investment results is easier than most people realize; to achieve superior results is harder than it looks." - Benjamin Graham

Whakamole
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Whakamole » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:45 pm

Make sure there is at least some paper for your executor. The last thing you want is for whoever is managing your estate to have zero idea of where your accounts are and no way to know.

gobigorgohome
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Location: The Heartland

Re: The Paperless Life

Post by gobigorgohome » Fri Apr 27, 2018 1:02 pm

I scan it to Google Drive and call it good. Shred, shred, shred.

BostonButterfly
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Location: Boston

Re: The Paperless Life

Post by BostonButterfly » Fri Apr 27, 2018 1:55 pm

sheepla wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:10 am
Evernote!
Another Evernote fan here!

obgraham
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by obgraham » Fri Apr 27, 2018 2:22 pm

A lot like the others here, I've been paperless since 2005. Virtually no paper records now except vehicle and home titles, and vital records (birth certs, passports, etc.) If some outfit later demands "the originals", my answer will be simply "there aren't any, deal with it".

I keep all mine on my own computer, not cloud, with backups. I can find any document very easily once I devised a naming system that works for me.

I do have a printout notebook listing all my accounts, passwords, etc., along with my estate planning documents. In there is also a description of the file structure on my computer. If I croak this afternoon, my wife can fairly easily track down what needs to be done. I understand that there is a risk to having this sitting around, but somehow I have to provide access for my family in the event...

likegarden
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by likegarden » Fri Apr 27, 2018 2:42 pm

How can you go paperless to manage your medical expenses? The insurance sends a lot of paper, doctors and labs provide you with paper. In case you need to check about payment on expenses you need to be able to follow a paper trail. 'Going Paperless' seems to mean that you have to believe what any bank, insurance and doctor office tells you, and be happy to pay whatever they tell you to pay.

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JoMoney
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by JoMoney » Fri Apr 27, 2018 3:06 pm

likegarden wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 2:42 pm
How can you go paperless to manage your medical expenses? The insurance sends a lot of paper, doctors and labs provide you with paper. In case you need to check about payment on expenses you need to be able to follow a paper trail. 'Going Paperless' seems to mean that you have to believe what any bank, insurance and doctor office tells you, and be happy to pay whatever they tell you to pay.
No, going paperless means that if you don't get those documents in electronic form, you convert them to electronic. You don't have any less of a "paper trail", it's just electronic. Keeping the documents electronically allows you to keep documents easily sorted by dates, in some cases searchable for easier reference, and can allow easier access/transmittal if you need to send copies to someone.
"To achieve satisfactory investment results is easier than most people realize; to achieve superior results is harder than it looks." - Benjamin Graham

Nearly A Moose
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Nearly A Moose » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:06 pm

JoMoney wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 3:06 pm
likegarden wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 2:42 pm
How can you go paperless to manage your medical expenses? The insurance sends a lot of paper, doctors and labs provide you with paper. In case you need to check about payment on expenses you need to be able to follow a paper trail. 'Going Paperless' seems to mean that you have to believe what any bank, insurance and doctor office tells you, and be happy to pay whatever they tell you to pay.
No, going paperless means that if you don't get those documents in electronic form, you convert them to electronic. You don't have any less of a "paper trail", it's just electronic. Keeping the documents electronically allows you to keep documents easily sorted by dates, in some cases searchable for easier reference, and can allow easier access/transmittal if you need to send copies to someone.
Agree with this. But I also noticed that like 75% of what I have to scan in my system is medical related stuff - such a dang nuisance.
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

AlohaJoe
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by AlohaJoe » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:12 pm

triceratop wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:08 pm
I use a GPG-encrypted folder that is shared across my computers (not using iCloud/Drive/Dropbox, but the same idea applies). One can use something like tomb on Linux, which is what I use. On less free operating systems, I do not know what one would do but I am sure it is possible.
I use Cryptomator across Mac, Linux, and Windows: https://cryptomator.org/ They also have Android & iOS versions but those cost money. The software itself is open source.

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weltschmerz
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Location: San Diego, CA

Re: The Paperless Life

Post by weltschmerz » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:38 pm

I went on a quest to become paperless back in 2009. Started scanning everything, and downloading every PDF from every institution I did business with. Years later, I realized that I got tired of keeping 2 or 3 digital backups of everything (you can't risk keeping just 1 digital copy). Plus you should keep all the digital copies encrypted, so you better have VeraCrypt installed.....now a paper copy seems so simple! These days, I am back to keeping paper, but only the most important stuff, like tax returns and year end investment statements. It's really not a lot of paper.

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Watty
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by Watty » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:00 pm

Whakamole wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:45 pm
Make sure there is at least some paper for your executor. The last thing you want is for whoever is managing your estate to have zero idea of where your accounts are and no way to know.
+1000

I have had to help a relative with their finances when they were incapacitated and checking their snail mail for bills was very important. That is one of the reasons I still get paper bills. If you go all electronic then be sure to have good instructions for someone on how to manage your affairs if you need them to.

Also consider if you will be able to keep the electronic system going when you are several decades into retirement and may not be as mentally capable.

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whodidntante
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Re: The Paperless Life

Post by whodidntante » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:43 pm

I use Google Drive for my Paperless HSA records. You can take a picture or use the Scan PDF feature.

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kramer
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Location: Philippines

Re: The Paperless Life

Post by kramer » Sat Apr 28, 2018 4:51 am

I try to go paperless as much as possible but I also believe that paper is a great user interface. All of my important lifetime financial, tax, and medical records fit into one box about 1.5 feet by 1 foot by 1 foot. I see no reason not to keep it as a backup.

UpperNwGuy
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Location: Washington DC

Re: The Paperless Life

Post by UpperNwGuy » Sat Apr 28, 2018 5:26 am

Vanguard - paperless, retain electronic copy of transfers from bank, purchases, sales, statements
Banks - paperless
Credit Cards - paperless, retain electronic copy of payment receipts
Rent - paperless, retain electronic copy of payment receipts
Misc Bills - paperless, retain electronic copy of payment receipts
Medical - retain hard copies of everything
Tax - retain hard copies of everything
User Manuals and Warranties - retain hard copies of everything

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