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Being organized makes all the difference between order and chaos in your financial affairs. There's no magical formula. All it takes is a little planning and some periodic attention to your records, and you can benefit from no longer having to search for misplaced documents. You'll find that its well worth the time it takes to set up a simple system that works for you. Here are some tips:

Obtain a small filing cabinet or a metal/plastic file box to store the following 'paperwork' you need to keep, but don't really use very often:

  • bills paid
  • canceled checks and bank statements
  • tax return copies
  • financial aid documents, including loan promissory notes and scholarship certificates/letters
  • academic documents (test scores, transcripts, etc.)
  • job placement/employment documents, your resume, and reference letters
  • insurance policies
  • automobile documents and service histories
  • credit card bills, receipts, and payment documents
  • important telephone numbers, mailing addresses, and email addresses.

That's all there is to it. However, be sure to store hard-to-replace documents (your Social Security Card, birth certificate, passport, visa, etc.) in a bank safety deposit box (which usually costs less than $20 per year).

Good basic record-keeping skills last a lifetime and minimize the frustration of having to hunt for information and documents.