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How to sort and store records efficiently

In a previous column, we talked about tax records. Now let’s take a look at other records that are important.

Since most of us hate to manage records, those records often end up in piles around the house. Don’t forget that the purpose of knowing which records to keep and where to find them is to save money.

Try this simple way of establishing a filing system for important records. Use a notebook, large box, accordion file, manila envelopes or anything that will keep records where you can find them. File papers alphabetically in general categories and, within those general categories, create more specific files.


  • Bills. Keep bills together as they come in during the month.
  • Checking Account(s). Start with last month’s checking statement when you square your checking account balance for this month. When the statement matches the amount in your check register, throw away the old statements.
  • Credit/Loan Record(s). File by type of property; e.g., “Credit/Loan: Automobile” or “Credit/Loan: Furniture.” If people owe you money, file the signed documents “Credit/Loan: Jane Doe.” Keep track of how to notify credit card companies if a card is lost or stolen in a file labeled “Credit/Loan: Credit Cards.”
  • Estate Planning. Use “Estate Planning: Letters of Last Instructions, Wills” and “Estate Planning: Living Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Instructions.” Another file under this general heading might include trust agreements and other such records.
  • Health Records. Have a file for each family member. “Health Records: (your name),” Health Records: (spouse’s name)” and “Health Records: (each child’s name).”
  • Housing Records. File by property address; e.g., “Housing: 2516 Main Street.” Keep records of deeds, mortgages, home improvements, appliances, warranties, household inventory, title insurance, eligibility for veteran’s administration (VA) mortgages, etc.
  • Insurance. File by type of coverage; for example, “Insurance: Auto.” Keep your most recent policies for auto, disability, health, life and homeowners and renters insurance.
  • Investments/Savings. “Investments/Savings: (name of specific investment).” Separate files might include annuities, bonds, brokerage account records, mutual funds, savings accounts and valuables and collectibles (antiques, art, coins, stamps, etc.). This category also includes all of your individual retirement accounts, Keogh’s, tax-shelters at work and other related records.
  • Personal. File by the name of the person; e.g., “Personal: Robert.” Keep adoption papers, baptismal certificates, birth certificates, citizenship papers, custody agreements, death certificates, diplomas and certification documents, divorce records, employment records (employee benefits, licenses, certifications, continuing education requirements, retirement, salary increases), marriage certificates, resumes, military service and social security credits and benefits.
  • Products. Use this file for proof-of-purchase, warranties and operating and maintenance instructions.
  • Receipts. Keep all receipts until you have subtracted them from your budget or checked them against your credit card bills. If you need them for proof, file in the appropriate place. Otherwise, pitch.
  • Vehicles. File under “Vehicle: (type).” Keep titles, maintenance records, registration and so forth.
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