Did you yawn when you read this title? You can be honest. If you're like most people filing doesn't exactly fall into your top 5 favorite things to do (or in this case, organize). It probably doesn't even fall into your top 50. Which is exactly the reason I am sitting here, writing this for you, yawning. Okay okay, all jokes aside I am writing this for one very good reason. To share with you my foolproof techniques that will guarantee you never have to worry about your files again. I even made this post short and to the point, so that you move through this quickly (don't say I never did anything for you!).
Here's the reality. Having a good filing system in place is vital. Yes, you read that right. VITAL, for every person and family. Whether it be medical reasons, tax season, or an emergency, you need to be able to find the right documents quickly and easily. So without further ado let's get started!
1. "Life Proof" Categories
Picking the right categories is important because as life constantly changes, your filing shouldn't have to. Here are the categories I suggest (with sub files for each family member): Medical, Dental, Vision, Insurance, Car/Auto (with sub files for each vehicle), Banking (with sub files for each bank), Credit Cards (with sub files for each card), Investments, Retirement, Home (improvements, mortgage/refinances, purchase documents), Legal, Receipts (for large purchases, such as wedding rings or furniture), Miscellaneous.
Optional files can include things like Loans (outstanding and paid) or Pets (vet records).
Note: I almost always suggest that vital documents (social security card, birth certificate, etc.) be kept separately in a locked safe.
How you organize your files all depends on how you operate. How you organize the files, and what products you pick will greatly determine how well the solution will stand the test of time. Are you a visual person? Then color coordinating your files by category may make the most sense for you. Do you like things to look clean and matching? Choosing a monochromatic theme such as all black hanging files, file folders, and labels could be your jam! (hint: I am this person). I've included a list of products below to help guide you in getting started depending on what you think makes the most sense for you.
3. So....what about tax returns?
The IRS guidelines suggest you keep the current years tax returns, along with returns from the previous 6 years. Since for the average person, this adds up to be quite a bit of paperwork I suggest you keep all tax returns in a separate box (or boxes) and organize by year.