How organized do you really need to be?

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Caduceus
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How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Caduceus »

Recently I've been wondering if my efforts to be organized are really worth it, especially when I compare what I do to what my husband does. I scan financial documents, which are organized by year and category. I have records of correspondence for things that I think may be required for tax purposes. When accounts are opened or closed, I keep records in case problems later arise, etc. I check my credit regularly ... you get the idea. It's quite time consuming.

My husband does none of the above and yet his financial life appears to run exactly like mine (because no problems have ever arisen, basically, which would require any of that paperwork.) His philosophy is that if he ever needs the documents/information, then he'll go gather them at that point in time. Ever since we've got married, I've done almost all the organizing for him. But even before we got married, he was getting by perfectly fine.

I'm wondering how organized Bogleheads tend to be. Maybe it's an age thing? Older bogleheads tend to realize there's absolutely no need to keep every paper document and are more relaxed? What balance do you strike?
jebmke
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by jebmke »

If you drop dead of a heart attack, it is difficult to organize the documents post mortem. I’ve never seen a dead person able to pull this off. But scientists are making good strides so I suppose anything is possible.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
UpperNwGuy
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by UpperNwGuy »

In the age of electronic documents you can eliminate many of your paper files. Most documents are held by the financial institutions that generated them, and you always have the option of saving the document at home as a PDF.
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galving
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by galving »

Some organization definitely helps, and I suspect that there's some base Boglehead level.
I'm the one in the household that scans the CC statements for weird items, though that system is simplified by reducing the # of cards and funneling most of the expense to a single one.
I've locked my credit for several years now, and have a monitoring service(s) that kick out an email every so often.

Bottom line is that you need to find your own balance.
If you enjoy the organization, continue to do it.
If you want to optimize, explore ways to do so and not worry about things.

Good luck!
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Sandtrap
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Sandtrap »

DW is as organized as; a career military officer, a GS-500 Level Z IRS person, or a OCD CPA might be. Records and protocols are exact. There isn't anything that is not organized and kept that way. And, she enjoys the process.

As for myself. . . .now that I am retired. . . I am organized on an "as needed" basis.

Both methods seem to work where things count.

Perhaps, it's a matter of priorities.

j :D
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JoMoney
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by JoMoney »

I have not considered it an effort at all to save my tax related documents in a folder.
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coalcracker
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by coalcracker »

I think it depends on your personality and anxiety level :D

I do ALL the financial organization in our family and lie somewhere between you and your husband in my meticulousness. I have a file cabinet that keeps paper documents organized by type (taxes, paystubs, receipts, investments, etc). When it starts to get full, I put the old documents in a box labeled with the dates and throw it in the attic. Currently I think they go back a decade or do. I suppose I'll shred stuff older than 7(?) years at some point.

When at all possible, I opt to receive documents electronically and do NOT print these (shudder). I figure these can be retrieved by me or the financial institution if need be.

I do need to update and share my "if I die" document with my wife. She could handle things without it, but it would be one less thing to worry about.
backpacker61
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by backpacker61 »

I save my tax documents in large paper envelopes, and have them going back almost 40 years.

A few years ago, I scanned all the paper 1040 returns themselves to pdf files and have them stored at fidsafe.com. I ran the older extraneous documents through a paper shredder.

I keep organized this way; I have one local bank account; employee retirement, HSA, CMA, and individual accounts at Fidelity; and individual and Roth IRA accounts at Vanguard. I have exactly one credit card.

When you limit the number of accounts, it's much easier to stay on top of things.
Last edited by backpacker61 on Fri Jan 14, 2022 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Yarlonkol12
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Yarlonkol12 »

Interestingly, in the real world I am very unorganized, if someone gave me some important papers it's all but guaranteed that I wouldn't be able to find them 1 month from now. If I didn't scan or photo the document, we can just assume it's lost.

However, it's almost effortless to keep/store/search digital records of everything once you have a system in place, at least it is in my experience.
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HomeStretch
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by HomeStretch »

Some people are organizers by nature and some are not. I am, spouse is not. I think everyone needs to find the level of organization (whether it’s paperwork, household, calendar, etc.) that suits them/their lifestyle best.

How much time in hours are you spending monthly/annually? I find it takes ~2-3 hours/month and ~8 hours at year end/tax time to pay bills, review credit reports, manage investments, prepare taxes and to handle electronically filing all documentation.

Simplifying your financial life directly results in reducing the amount of time needed to administer it. You might start by tracking the amount of time it takes to do the tasks involved in your organization process. Then focus on ways to reduce the time spent starting with the most time-consuming. For example, reducing the number of financial accounts and/or credit cards should, in turn, reduce time spent on organizing them. Another immediate way to reduce time spent by you is to stop organizing spouse’s stuff and let spouse handle it.
Mr.BB
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Mr.BB »

I know an expert in business development / employee enhancement, etc. We were talking once about being organized. He basically said that if he asked me for a file on anything from my filing cabinet and if I can pull it right out, I'm organized. Basically it's just knowing where everything is, even if it looks out of order to somebody else.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
CletusCaddy
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by CletusCaddy »

Why feel the need to organize documents that are created on a basis and in a manner not of your choosing?

If your financial institutions decided to invent a new set of regular documents that gave you no additional insight into your financial life, would you feel the need to organize those documents, just because they existed?

Sounds like your life is serving documents instead of your documents serving you.
Shallowpockets
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Shallowpockets »

Everyone has a comfort level. And an anxiety level. Some take it out both ways to extremes. Is it necessary to save monthly water bills?
There is always an excuse for a saver of such.
We each have our own way. And when that way is one partner saving all papers, the other can know that and use it as fallback.
OP, you are never going to not save the papers you save, and neither is your SO going to start doing so. It is a symbiotic relationship.
Do what you need to feel comfortable in your financial life. Hope that you don't have to ever evacuate your house in less than a minute for a fire like the recent conflagration in Colorado. You would surely have left much behind, and your anxiety would be huge following that.
There are the basics and there are the extraneous. Live somewhere in between.
Parkinglotracer
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Parkinglotracer »

If i have secure access to records on line that seems to satisfy most of my need to have records be organized.

Besides that what hard copies do i need?

I have a short list of financial accounts and death instructions / notes I keep for my wife or executor
I have old tax returns
I have birth cert and marriage licenses and passports
I have car titles
House closing records I think i need


I have tried to take electronic statements on everything possible because mail is slower and we get away for winter. Statements in mail seem like a security risk if they are never forwarded or delivered.

Good book by malcom gladwell ? on organization in last couple years i don’t remember the name

One part that stuck with me was the best way to store emails is to leave them in the in box and use iMac search and type what you know of subject and it appears. Works.

Book also said the one drawer in kitchen with all the different stuff is a great method for all the different stuff that doesn’t go elsewhere

I think some people tidy up and organize instead of spending the time to do what they really need to do, ie, Most people move the piano bench when they need to move the piano.

I think of that when i have a problem and ask myself if my solution is any easy out.

Organizing is only good if it solves a real problem i guess.

Sorry for the trite sayings.
LittleMaggieMae
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by LittleMaggieMae »

I stumbled upon a youtube channel - the clutterbug where the host of the channel posits that people fall into 4 basic categories of "how they feel most comfortable organizing". There is always overlap between the categories but people tend to lean one way or the other. There is also a Clutterbug web page (with a longer quiz). Watch the youtube video (and take the 2 step "test" honestly - I answered the questions NOT with what I aspired to or felt pressured to be. ) If your (or your spouse's) organizing method is causing you stress/anxiety it might be worth a watch and some thought. The over all vibe isn't that you must change dramatically or buy some new system of "organization". I would do this more for personal understanding rather than as a way to "fix" something.

Everyone's organization style is different. If your organization style is causing you stress/anxiety I highly recommend finding the organizing techniq that makes you comfortable.

I don't keep a lot of paper or receipts. I have a 2 tier method. Typical month I spend a couple of hours spread out over the month. During Insurance Months (I have spring and fall insurance renews) and during Tax time (which comes before the Spring Insurance month) I spend more time maybe 3 or 4 hours over the course of the Month the Event falls in on financial stuff (phone calls, emails, looking at the past, thinking about the future, weeding out the files/replacing documents).

I have a primary home and rental properties. I have an accordion file folder where I keep the major important info on my properties - insurance docs, property tax docs, mortgage info, property manager paper work, info on how to take over the utilities when a tenant leaves (this doesn't happen on a yearly basis and I forget what I need to do...) Any utility account info/phone numbers to help with taking over the utilities. I drop anything I think may be related to taxes in the accordian folder and any invoices for work done to any of my properties,etc. The accordion file folder is overkill - but I can see it. It gets pretty messy by tax time.

I have a "banker box" that I throw paper work into willynilly thru out the year - anything I think I might need later that I don't think needs to go into the Accordion file folder. I like to be an "archeologist" and dig thru layers if I should need to try to find something I might have saved. In all my years of doing this - I have had to "dig" only once - and I did successfully find what I needed. :) If I pay for something with a credit card - and I MAY need to have proof of that purchase (ie the Credit Card Statement) When I make the purchase - I will sloppily (I am not neat) write out a sheet of paper with the date, the credit card I used, the dollar amount spent and WHAT it was I bought and maybe WHY I thought I might need to print out the statement later... and I will throw that peice of paper in the Box (and not think of it again.)

I go thru the Box (and the Accordion Folder) at tax time - if I find a page with a handwritten info about a credit card statement I might need (or any other document I might need to print out a utility bill? Some attachment from a saved email?? ) I can go an print out the statements/documents I need.

For everyday stuff - I do not save (or print out bills/statements). I keep very little paper on a monthly basis. For store receipts - I check the receipt before I leave the store - or after I've reviewed my purchases at home and then I discard the receipt. I do NOT have a history of buying stuff and returning it. I do NOT have a history of needing to use a "warranty" or the need to return a defective item to a store for a refund. I do have friends who seem to have really bad luck OR have complicated lives and are forever returning unused things they've bought or jumping thru hoops to get some value from a warranty or returning something that "broke" within a month or two of purchase. So I know some people really do need to keep the documentation on what they bought.

Once many years ago - I needed to find a receipt for a group gift I had purchased months earlier. A super organized friend was with me while I was looking for the receipt (going thru the layers of the Box) and I thought she was going to have a full blown Panic Attack... she got pale and twitchy and kept going "how are we going to return this gift! it was $300.00 we don't have a receipt! we are out the money... we are out the money! WE ARE OUT THE MONEY!!!! " I was like "It's ok. I have the receipt and the paper work for the gift... it just takes a few minutes to find. Relax. Go in the other room- watch TV... have a beverage. " My friend's organizing style is "I put each receipt in a manila file folder, label it, and put it in my file cabinet in the correctly labeled hanging file folder." Having to maintain something like raises my Anxiety level and would GIVE me a Panic Attack if I was expected to do that.

For the most part - even though I have a primary home and 2 rental properties and a handful of bank accounts and credit cards and retirement accounts -- my sloppy filing system has been just fine. I always find what I need. I always have the document I need. (If I had to determine the "magic" - it's that I do clean out the accordion file folder and the Box every year at tax time. I only have the new year's layers at any given time. )

ADDED: The Accordion File Folder - also holds a printed statement from anything I pay regularly - that way I have the account number, contact info,etc. If I got hit by a bus - someone could go thru the pockets in the Accordion File and find all the accounts/important papers for my house, my personal finances and anything for my rentals. I replace the "sample bills" with a current bill/statement every year at tax time (or Insurance time). I've found that KNOWING an account number and who to call or what website to go to - is more important than the dollar amounts on the monthly bills/statements.
Last edited by LittleMaggieMae on Fri Jan 14, 2022 11:39 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Candor
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Candor »

I was much more organized when I was younger. As the years and decades passed I became much less so and I suppose part of the reason was that the energy that my organization required didn't really pay much benefit so I gradually devoted less time to it. Maybe I was just lucky and at some point it will bite me but for now I'm more in the camp of your husband and will address any issues that arise as needed. Maybe reading Walden and frittering ones life away on details had more of an influence on me that I realized.
The fool, with all his other faults, has this also - he is always getting ready to live. - Epicurus (341–270 BC)
Californiastate
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Californiastate »

IMHO you need to be organized to a point to find most things quickly.
KlangFool
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by KlangFool »

OP,

The proof of the pudding is in eating it.

A person is organized if the person can find the information needed in a short amount of time. A person is doubly organized if someone else can find the information needed in a short amount of time.

The above statement come about because I had come across a person that look organized but she is not organized. She organized the document nicely and neatly. But, she cannot find anything when we need the information. Meanwhile, my documents may not filed as neatly but I can find all necessary information quickly.

This is the Bogleheads forum. So, the answer has to be if something happened to one or both of the spouses, can someone else find all the necessary information to carry on the financial affair. This requires a trial run aka fire drill. The organizer spouse would do nothing and see whether the other spouse can handle the financial affair.

KlangFool
Last edited by KlangFool on Fri Jan 14, 2022 11:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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daleddm
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by daleddm »

Going thru parents estate not long ago, I came across boxes of checks dating back to 1975 ... in perfect date and numerical order of course. It was interesting to be looking at checks written to long out-of-business department stores (Chicago area) where clothing had been bought for us as kids, etc. But after all those years (duh) not of much use.

I keep my own version of bills paid with screenshots, etc., loosely organized by month, which seems beyond good enough, and other than confirming or questioning what I thought I did a month or three ago, it hasn't really been necessary. For me the clutter of records is more a challenge of which old hard drive or which of a hundred thumb drives might it be on.

And yes, the pandemic pushed me a bit to get on task to estate matters and records ... and going thru it for parents will get your attention.

dm
quantAndHold
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by quantAndHold »

I have ADD, so I don’t have the temperament for dealing with a lot of organization, so over the years, I set all that stuff up to be as simple and automated as possible. In 2022, nearly everything can be looked up online, so I only make a point of saving paperwork that is related to income taxes, all in a file folder marked “taxes 2022”. I set up everything I could to be automated. Everything goes through an email account, and I have a calendar item once a month for going through the email and dealing with everything that can’t be automated. It takes me an afternoon. For someone who can sit still for five minutes, it would probably take an hour. At the end of the afternoon, I’m back at email zero.

As far as what happens if I get hit by a bus, I learned from taking care of dad’s life after the heart attack that as long as I know where everything is, having a lot of history isn’t really important. He left me cheat sheet with a list of accounts, attorney’s name, location of important docs, etc. That was really all I needed to pickup where he left off. I had to shred a full file cabinet of papers. Mostly, I just barely glanced at them as they were going into the shredder.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
cshell2
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by cshell2 »

For taxes, my paper files are getting thinner and thinner...although I do have them going back 15 years or more. I find saving things electronically and backed up to the cloud is much more convenient. Basically the only thing I have in hard copy is a print out of my tax return and anything that might have been mailed to me which is very little. Most things I just access online these days.

But yeah, basically haven't needed to dig through them outside of for curiosity sake.
AnnetteLouisan
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by AnnetteLouisan »

Being organized is good. Having preprinted labels for your file folders at home is just going too far. Lol.
tibbitts
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by tibbitts »

Bogleheads on average are probably very organized, but have to invest a lot of time to maintain that due to the complexity of their finances (dozen of accounts at numerous providers, etc.)
michaelingp
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by michaelingp »

Caduceus wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 6:27 am It's quite time consuming.
This is your comment that concerns me. Except, say, for checking your credit history (which I think an app could do for you), it shouldn't take much time with modern technology. I am retired, so maybe time is a little looser, but I'm extremely organized and I don't feel I spend much time on it. If I get any paper, it just goes into the ScanSnap and with a few clicks it's stored on the computer as a PDF. I go back and forth on whether I should keep copies of statements that the vendor keeps on-line anyway. Sometimes I just let them store them if I trust them (say, Fidelity), or save one a year, but I trust the utility companies less, so I just click "download" and store them somewhere. Honestly, I spend a lot more time on the BH forum than I do being organized.

Is it necessary to live a good life? I don't fool myself into thinking that. But every once in a while, it pays off. The vacuum died and it seems a little premature? In a few clicks have the receipt and the warranty statement!
KlangFool
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by KlangFool »

tibbitts wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 12:10 pm Bogleheads on average are probably very organized, but have to invest a lot of time to maintain that due to the complexity of their finances (dozen of accounts at numerous providers, etc.)
tibbitts,

I agreed on organized part. I disagreed on the complexity part. I am actively reducing the number of accounts and providers. K.I.S.S.

KlangFool
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H-Town
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by H-Town »

Caduceus wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 6:27 am Recently I've been wondering if my efforts to be organized are really worth it, especially when I compare what I do to what my husband does. I scan financial documents, which are organized by year and category. I have records of correspondence for things that I think may be required for tax purposes. When accounts are opened or closed, I keep records in case problems later arise, etc. I check my credit regularly ... you get the idea. It's quite time consuming.

My husband does none of the above and yet his financial life appears to run exactly like mine (because no problems have ever arisen, basically, which would require any of that paperwork.) His philosophy is that if he ever needs the documents/information, then he'll go gather them at that point in time. Ever since we've got married, I've done almost all the organizing for him. But even before we got married, he was getting by perfectly fine.

I'm wondering how organized Bogleheads tend to be. Maybe it's an age thing? Older bogleheads tend to realize there's absolutely no need to keep every paper document and are more relaxed? What balance do you strike?
Apparently not a lot as your husband is the proof. Now if you ask how organized do you *want* to be? you'll get a whole spectrum of answers.

I'm very organized when it comes to financial and money. My wife is not. She knows how much we have, how much we make, and how much we spend for year, big picture stuff. But I know where every cent goes.

When it comes to kitchen and home organization stuff. My wife is in charge. I better remember where I need to put things back in place.

If you care about something, you tend to spend more time with it. It does not necessary mean you'll get the linear return on the time you put in. But it's something that human naturally do.
Time is the ultimate currency. My ultimate wealth is the full control of how I spend my time.
bluebolt
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by bluebolt »

Between digital statements and being able to label things in email (and instantly recall them by category or search), I find that being organized takes almost no time these days.

I've shredded/thrown out almost all of my legacy statements, tax returns, etc. My digital records go back about 10 years now, so no need to keep around the paper records older than that. I used to keep track of the basis of my investments, but they now are all tracked by the brokerage, so I've gotten rid of those records also.
Doctor Rhythm
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Doctor Rhythm »

I’m a W-2 employee, with some minor 1099-MISC side hustles — so it’s not like I need to track and retain that much.

I throw any statements that have tax-relevance, like a W-2, 1099, or charitable contribution receipt, into a yearly “tax folder”. I don’t sort them until I prepare my taxes. I don’t keep statements from banks, brokerages, credit cards, or anything else where the information is also available on-line. Most of them don’t even send paper statements anymore - and I’m not going to bother downloading a bunch of pdf’s.
H-Town
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by H-Town »

Doctor Rhythm wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 2:39 pm I’m a W-2 employee, with some minor 1099-MISC side hustles — so it’s not like I need to track and retain that much.

I throw any statements that have tax-relevance, like a W-2, 1099, or charitable contribution receipt, into a yearly “tax folder”. I don’t sort them until I prepare my taxes. I don’t keep statements from banks, brokerages, credit cards, or anything else where the information is also available on-line. Most of them don’t even send paper statements anymore - and I’m not going to bother downloading a bunch of pdf’s.
Have you checked how far back your bank would allow you download the statements?
Time is the ultimate currency. My ultimate wealth is the full control of how I spend my time.
sureshoe
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by sureshoe »

Everything has diminishing returns. I get on my wife about this all the time.

I think the secret to peace and organization is to create self-organizing systems.

The bulk of my financial life is automated. I really don't look too close at statements and balances/etc. Everything is auto-invested, bills are autopaid, etc. I have a budget that gets populated in Mint, and as long as when we eyeball it, it isn't out of whack, I don't inspect much. I think the people who pinch every penny and examine every item do it as much for entertainment as actual effectiveness.

At home, I have a place for my keys, my wallet, my phone, my passports, my birth certificates, and my tax documents.

Other than that - I just don't let people accumulate stuff.
Grt2bOutdoors
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

Is there a list or place that shows how long to keep statements/documents?

I’m in process of decluttering - I might need a new shredder soon.
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions
gamboolman
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by gamboolman »

ms gamboolgal and I are squarely in the Organized Camp.

When managing and executing big Offshore Construction Projects - " A Place for Everything and Everything In It's Place "

Same way on Administrative Filing for efficient Project Management.

This has carried thru to retirement.

But thats just us.

Lifes A Dance And You Learn As You Go...

gamboolman....
an_asker
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by an_asker »

Yarlonkol12 wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 8:20 am Interestingly, in the real world I am very unorganized, if someone gave me some important papers it's all but guaranteed that I wouldn't be able to find them 1 month from now. If I didn't scan or photo the document, we can just assume it's lost.

However, it's almost effortless to keep/store/search digital records of everything once you have a system in place, at least it is in my experience.
I'm half like you lol. I'm a packrat quite unorganized (in real world). But if I need to find something, most of the time I know exactly where it is in my jungle of a mess and will find it quite quickly.

In the digital world however, I am very meticulously organized. Financials (all kinds of stuff - I've spreadsheets, I've receipts, I've statements, etc etc) and photos/videos are the main things I store.
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calmaniac
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by calmaniac »

I am routinely the spouse that finds the record du jour that is needed.

- Partly because I have a habit of pdf'ing many documents (SnapSnap baby!)
- Partly because I am better at electronic searching

I'd rather have a pdf than a paper document. Easier to find, even it not well organized.
≈63yo. AA 70/30: 30% TSM, 16% value (VIOV/VFVA/AVUV), 16% foreign LC, 8%emerging, 30% GFund/VBTIX. Fed pensions now ≈60% of expenses. Taking SS @age 70--> pension+SS ≈100% of expenses. What me worry?
tibbitts
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by tibbitts »

KlangFool wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 1:27 pm
tibbitts wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 12:10 pm Bogleheads on average are probably very organized, but have to invest a lot of time to maintain that due to the complexity of their finances (dozen of accounts at numerous providers, etc.)
tibbitts,

I agreed on organized part. I disagreed on the complexity part. I am actively reducing the number of accounts and providers. K.I.S.S.

KlangFool
Except that Bogleheads are driven until death to sign up for every brokerage transfer, bank, and credit card signup bonus they're eligible for, so at any given time they're going to have a pretty complex situation.
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by tibbitts »

calmaniac wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 3:18 pm I am routinely the spouse that finds the record du jour that is needed.

- Partly because I have a habit of pdf'ing many documents (SnapSnap baby!)
- Partly because I am better at electronic searching

I'd rather have a pdf than a paper document. Easier to find, even it not well organized.
So everybody isn't just doing ordinary PDF scans, which aren't searchable? What (free, obviously) software is everybody using for this? Is everybody making ordinary PDF then converting them to searchable, or...?
KlangFool
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by KlangFool »

tibbitts wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 3:36 pm
KlangFool wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 1:27 pm
tibbitts wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 12:10 pm Bogleheads on average are probably very organized, but have to invest a lot of time to maintain that due to the complexity of their finances (dozen of accounts at numerous providers, etc.)
tibbitts,

I agreed on organized part. I disagreed on the complexity part. I am actively reducing the number of accounts and providers. K.I.S.S.

KlangFool
Except that some Bogleheads are driven until death to sign up for every brokerage transfer, bank, and credit card signup bonus they're eligible for, so at any given time they're going to have a pretty complex situation.
tibbitts,

I added one word:"some". Some of us understand the concept of "enough".

KlangFool
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Fallible
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Fallible »

HomeStretch wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 8:50 am Some people are organizers by nature and some are not. ...
It may be as simple as this - to a point. I enjoy organizing, of knowing where stuff belongs and a useful way to organize it so I can actually find it quickly when needed. Problem is, I don't enjoy the actual act of organizing files. As rewarding, necessary, and even vital as it can be, I find it boring. That's where my "To File File" comes in (sort of organized procrastination), where what needs organizing into folders first goes into this file for eventual placing into its own file.

I think it does get harder as we get older and there is more to organize and file and even to organize what needs tossing. A book I found interesting and that may be of interest here is The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information, by Daniel J. Levitin, a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist, about how the brain can organize in the Information Age.
"Yes, investing is simple. But it is not easy, for it requires discipline, patience, steadfastness, and that most uncommon of all gifts, common sense." ~Jack Bogle
michaelingp
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by michaelingp »

tibbitts wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 3:41 pm
So everybody isn't just doing ordinary PDF scans, which aren't searchable? What (free, obviously) software is everybody using for this? Is everybody making ordinary PDF then converting them to searchable, or...?
I'd venture to say that almost all scanners today come with OCR software. My ScanSnap did. It's slightly tricky in that the default out of the box is to just OCR the first page of a document. Just find the check box and check "OCR entire document". I think this is a holdover from the "old days" when it actually took significant time to OCR a document. Now it's pretty much instaneous even with my 4 y.o. desktop.
Marylander1
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Marylander1 »

My tendency to scan and keep records of significant expenses got a big boost when a Honda class action lawsuit paid in excess of $3,000 based on repair receipts years earlier.

I also know someone for whom a financial account simply disappeared one day, and statement copies were extremely helpful to convince the institution to find her money quickly. They didn't believe her on the first call.

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celia
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by celia »

OP, you will learn what information is really important if you are an executor or trustee for someone else. They have to save receipts to confirm where each expense went and a copy of incoming checks, deposits, and tax returns. Being the oldest of my generation in a large family, I have been asked to be a trustee (or advisor to the trustee) for 3 deceased relatives and 3 disabled living relatives. Some days that is my full-time job, but many days, I don’t do anything on this.

If the first phone call of the day is “Can you drive me to urgent care today?”, I pretty much know how the entire day will be spent.

I encourage you to help a friend or relative who is a trustee or executor to learn about what is important.

And get your own estate plan going, if you haven’t yet. You can change things as time passes and you learn more. But you can’t change anything, if no plan yet exists.

A lot of what I save/generate is for the successor trustees. The most important items besides the trust documents are the list of assets owned by the trust.


For our own assets, I maintain a spreadsheet that I update at the end of each year. There is a row for each assets showing:
Title of account
Account number
Custodian
Beneficiary/ies
Comment field (where the money came from, such as inheritance)
Then there is a column for the year-end value of the account (a new column is added every year). [Actually this column is 3 columns: the values added and withdrawn each year (in text format so Excel doesn’t do math on them), net addition/withdrawals, ending account value]. I started this 3-section year-end value when I wondered why one account dropped by $20K a few years back while the investment grew so well. I had forgotten we had bought a new car. It is also cool to see $54,321 to leave one account and $54,321 to be added to another account when doing a Roth conversion that year. Otherwise, I would be forever scratching my head wondering why those account values jumped around so much. (I only add those 3 columns for the year after the year ends, not every time I add/withdraw. I also don’t care about additions and withdrawals to bank accounts as those balances can change daily.)

I’ve been maintaining this about 30 years, originally to see if we were making “progress” as the kids got expensive. I “hide” closed accounts and data over 2 years old by making the row or column have a height/width of 0. But the data is still in the spreadsheet should I ever need to see a yearly overview at a future point in time.
A dollar in Roth is worth more than a dollar in a taxable account. A dollar in taxable is worth more than a dollar in a tax-deferred account.
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by capran »

I just spent a week going through just one file of home improvements projects from 1993 to present, and threw out a few things that are not allowed for adding to home Basis. It won't matter if we both pass, since the home gets a stepped up basis under current law. (but you never know what the future will bring.) But if one person passes, my understanding is the surviving spouse has two years to sell to receive the 500k exemption on Capital Gains. But I read in another source that said the surviving spouse gets to step up her deceased spouses share in the home in community property states. (I've added that to the list of questions when we revisit the trust vs will issue.) But it can't hurt to be prepared for all contingencies. We have our financial info in binders, with some notes about disposition as noted in current trust, and have all tax documents saved and in a safe. The last few years I have made notes on our copy of both 1040's and the 1099's, so that anyone could step in and see where every line was connected. Also have a list of all auto pays recently, again, so anyone stepping in knows what and how everything is being paid. Titles in safe too. Maybe it's overkill, but my time on this planet is limited and I'd rather have it ultra organized than not.
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Shackleton
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Shackleton »

I follow your husband’s method and it’s never been a problem for me. If I die tomorrow and my documents aren’t in order, I won’t be around to worry about it. I do have a binder with basic info for hubby so he won’t be completely lost and will know where to pull money from.
“Superhuman effort isn't worth a damn unless it achieves results.” ~Ernest Shackleton
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FreddieFIRE
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by FreddieFIRE »

I keep all paper used to compile my annual tax returns until three years from the due date. After that, I create "skinny" files (in folders) that contain a copy of the signed tax return, W2's, 1099's and calculation spreadsheet. I could fit 100 years worth of those in a single banker's box. Everything else goes. I downsized in 2019 from a five drawer file and about 8 banker's boxes in the garage to a single hanging file tote pan (about half full) and a single tote pan with manila folders. We literally had cancelled paper checks from the 1980's. Yep, a garage can be a curse.... :annoyed
FIRE?? Just call me "Ready Freddie."
5outof10
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by 5outof10 »

This seems to works for us...

Once a month we update our personal balance sheet. So at that time we download PDFs of monthly statements for bank, investment, retirement, FSA accounts, and credit cards. If any life insurance, p & c insurance, or car tabs (my state has a terrible tab registration system so we track it because we got burned by the ineptitude) are due that month we get those downloaded too. Takes less than an hour for downloading and creating the BS, but most months DW and I talk finances, goals, and upcoming expenses for an hour or two. Usually with pie.

Each account has its own file folder. That list of folders and the balance sheet (which has each account listed) is the list of accounts easily accessible upon a death.

In those file folders we also save a PDF of the account/policy opening docs, current beneficiary designations, and account closing docs. This is only done at account/policy opening, modification, and termination. Less than 5 minutes.

One day each year DW and I pull/save PDFs of credit reports and SS statements. This takes less than an hour, mostly to get through the 3 credit bureaus' questions.

The originals of the following are in a fire proof safe, and a PDF copy is scanned in a file:
Vehicle titles
Deed to house
Title opinion/policy for house
Marriage certificate plus wedding video DVD
Birth certificates
Baptism records plus baptisms DVDs
Social security cards (no PDF)
Passports (no PDF)
Wills/trusts
Tangible personal property lists
Powers of Attorney
Health Care Directives
Business ownership docs (another topic)
Cash (no PDF)
*One day, a gold bar.
These are only update when changes happen, less than 15 minutes each time.

Finally, we have 3 hanging file folders in a rack on our desk. Throughout the year we immediately print and drop income tax docs (e.g., W-2s, 1099s, charitable receipts, etc) into one. We put all auto repair invoices in a second. We put all health/dental billing docs in a third. When we get home and have one of these docs in hand we can just drop it in the folder so it isn't on the counter and carry on, or when it comes in the mail same thing. Or print from email/portal, drop it in the folder, and delete the email. For us it keeps the counters and the inboxes clean. Less than a minute each time.

In February we take our accountant's checklist and the tax folder, sit at a table (with pie), and get it in order for him. Remove all staples. When he gives us back the filed returns and supporting docs we put the returns on top and all of the used supporting docs behind them and then all of the unused supporting docs we think we should keep behind those. Scan as one big PDF. Accountant takes back that pile and stores it for the years needed and shreds on schedule. Prep takes less than an hour. Post scan less than a half an hour.

At that same time we scan in the auto repair docs as one large PDF for warranty sake and paper gets shredded. Her car first and my car second. 10 minutes.

Health/dental gets scanned as one PDF and paper shredded. Takes less than 5 minutes. But filing out FSA reimbursement papers takes 666 gajillion years so we are usually dipping into some more pie at this point. Somewhere during this second helping of pie time begins to lose its meaning.

Finally, we do the yearly rebalance (some years we do a second rebalance later in the year). 30 minutes.

We don't store PDFs on computer. When the computer saves it to a thumb drive a second copy automatically gets stored on a mini hard drive.
EF: 20% Interest Checking, 80% VTEB in Taxable | Retirement: 72% VTI, 18% VXUS, 10% BND | I would like to own a gold bar one day, to be able to say I own a gold bar.
absolute zero
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by absolute zero »

No offense to OP but I wouldn’t call someone who saves documents related to opening/closing accounts “organized.” I would call that person “quirky.” The Bogleheads forum has taught me that some people are hoarders just like the ones on TV, except instead of hoarding physical junk, they instead hoard trivial and unnecessary financial documents.
5outof10
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by 5outof10 »

absolute zero wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 11:01 pm No offense to OP but I wouldn’t call someone who saves documents related to opening/closing accounts “organized.” I would call that person “quirky.” The Bogleheads forum has taught me that some people are hoarders just like the ones on TV, except instead of hoarding physical junk, they instead hoard trivial and unnecessary financial documents.
I mostly agree with this. We save just the main doc and only in PDF because it shows us the account ownership (individual, tenants in common, joint tenants with rights of survivorship, etc) and beneficiaries. This info is helpful for estate planning in case of a death event.

Just works for us.
EF: 20% Interest Checking, 80% VTEB in Taxable | Retirement: 72% VTI, 18% VXUS, 10% BND | I would like to own a gold bar one day, to be able to say I own a gold bar.
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Caduceus
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Caduceus »

absolute zero wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 11:01 pm No offense to OP but I wouldn’t call someone who saves documents related to opening/closing accounts “organized.” I would call that person “quirky.” The Bogleheads forum has taught me that some people are hoarders just like the ones on TV, except instead of hoarding physical junk, they instead hoard trivial and unnecessary financial documents.
No offense taken. I'm quite happy to be considered quirky. I don't agree that those documents are unnecessary, though. While simplifying my financial life, I closed my accounts at Citibank. Several months later, I received a letter asking me to settle fees that were unpaid related to the account because I hadn't kept the minimum balance in the account. I called in and got it settled after escalating it to a supervisor, but the front-line rep insisted my account was still active.

This is actually not an uncommon problem. Look at this NYT article: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/16/busi ... -fees.html
Normchad
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Normchad »

PVolker wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 7:53 pm I keep all paper used to compile my annual tax returns until three years from the due date. After that, I create "skinny" files (in folders) that contain a copy of the signed tax return, W2's, 1099's and calculation spreadsheet. I could fit 100 years worth of those in a single banker's box. Everything else goes. I downsized in 2019 from a five drawer file and about 8 banker's boxes in the garage to a single hanging file tote pan (about half full) and a single tote pan with manila folders. We literally had cancelled paper checks from the 1980's. Yep, a garage can be a curse.... :annoyed
This is what I do as well.

I used to keep everything. But after doing it for twenty years, and realizing I never used it, I switched gears. I’ve got paper copies of the last 7 years tax returns. I’ve got my car titles, my passports, my title insurance, etc. everything else has been shredded. I do not attempt to scan or store anything electronically.
Wannaretireearly
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Re: How organized do you really need to be?

Post by Wannaretireearly »

I’ve been late once or twice on credit card bills. Quickly resolved and fees reversed each time. Cause was usually not receiving a paper bill. I’ve automated my regular Citi cards. Got to keep an eye on the new cards/churns though :oops:

Tax docs get thrown into a big envelope. Opened up in Feb to start the Uncle Sam business.

Trying to keep my accounts simple. Haven’t opened a treasury direct account /I bonds for this reason. I think I’ll regret that one, but oh well.

I like the paper bills as a reminder, but also to scan/rescan the bills.

I’m not the most organized. Cleaners coming every two weeks forces me to clear up paper work.

I wish I could automate property tax bill. That seems like a Second World War era process.

I was able to fund our IRAs in prep for backdoor a few days ago. But I’ve not been keeping an eye/records for these transactions as I’ve been advised to do here (cost basis etc). I’m hoping my brokerage helps me if I ever need this info :oops:

I think I’m doing alright. But would fail Klangs test of spouse being able to take over all financial duties today.
Death and taxes. Only one is under your control!
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