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How To Create an Effective Filing System

Aug 17, 2007
In order to effectively reduce your debts and fix your credit history, you are going to have proper organization and effective ways to keep track of your financial records. To make an effective filing system, experts recommend alphabetizing your relevant documents by subject or category. But don't make the mistake of having too many or too few categories. A dozen broad categories should be the maximum in any filing system. Therefore, a sample file index might include categories for:

Banking records (including checking and savings accounts)
Bills paid (where you file regular monthly expenses)
Budget (for itemized listings of all your expenses, income and assets)
Credit cards (useful for storing receipts, statements and contracts)
Insurance (auto, health, life and property insurance records)
Investments (such as 401(k) and mutual fund reports)
Mortgage
Receipts
Taxes
Once you've gotten your files labeled, you may wonder how long you should keep certain financial documents. As a rule, you should keep old tax records for at least seven years because that's how far back the law allows the IRS to go when it wants to audit you. You should also hang on indefinitely to your stock, bond and mutual fund statements - mainly because if you sell any of those investments later, you may need to demonstrate the cost basis of your investment to the IRS. However, you don't need to keep those prospectuses that mutual fund companies mail you each quarter, so you can safely toss those.

Maintaining Your Filing System

Once you've got a working system, of course the final step is to stay on top of your paperwork, so that it doesn't spiral out of control again. Experts say you should resist the urge to have general mail files - like the all-purpose "in" and "out" baskets that seem to occupy almost every home office and work desk space. Instead, create a paper-flow system that instantly tells you what you're supposed to do with the mail that's held there.

Once you weed through your files, purging unnecessary paperwork and reducing the amount of piles you have stacked up, chances are you'll be a lot clearer about your finances and certainly better organized. What's more, if you take a few minutes each day to tackle your paperwork, you'll save yourself many hours - if not days - of having to wade through a morass of papers later in the year when you're trying to find some important document. This is particularly true when tax time rolls around. Imagine how great it would feel if you didn't have to go sifting through old piles of paper trying to justify all your tax deductions. Instead, you could simply turn over to your accountant or to a paid tax professional a nice, neat file of well-organized receipts and records.
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John Hilaire provide consumer counseling credit debt management organiz , card credit debt forgiveness settlement and compare debt negotiation vs credit counseling .
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