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Organizing Financial Documents In A Filing Cabinet

PTIOF of Bergen County provides tips when it comes to choosing your next filing cabinet

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Choosing a filing cabinet is a little more in-depth than just saying, “Ooh… that one looks pretty!” Why? It has to be a functional object as well; a well-made filing cabinet makes the job of filing incomparably easier than a pretty but poorly-made one. Here’s what to look for.

A good suspension system
Does it open and close smoothly with some weight in it? Grab some heavy books and put them in a drawer. Does the drawer still slide in and out smoothly?

Open all of the drawers and put a heavy book in the end of each one. If it causes the cabinet to become unstable or tip, move on.

Thick and rust-resistant metal
Look at the metal; does it seem thick to you? Look at several; it quickly becomes apparent what sturdy metal is like. Also, check that the metal is rust-resistant – you want this cabinet to be sturdy for a long time.

Look for the Underwriters’ Laboratory seal
This means that the cabinet should be able to resist most home fires – a test cabinet withstood 1700 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature of an average house fire) for one hour without the internal temperature exceeding 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Paper burns at 451 degrees, so all of your papers would be safe.

Your local office supply store should be fine with you doing these things to a cabinet that you’re thinking of buying. If not, don’t do business with them.

What Goes In The Cabinet?

Why would a person need such a cabinet? After all, there’s not that much stuff to file, right? Wrong. The more I listed and thought about the useful and worthwhile things to file, the more I realized I needed a big, good filing cabinet. Here’s what needs to be stored.

Fundamentals1. Personal papers
2. Tax returns
3. Deeds, titles, and surveys

Emergency Protection and Prevention 1. Insurance policies
2. Household inventory
3. Instruction manuals and warranties
4. Hard drive backups

Financials1. Paycheck stubs
2. Employee benefit statements and plans
3. Retirement statements and plans
4. Credit card statements
5. Debt documentation
6. Investment information
7. Charitable donation receipts

In Event Of Death…1. A will
2. Trust documentation
3. A durable power of attorney
4. A living will
5. Life insurance policies

Most Importantly…
A master document explaining what all of this stuff is

This is mostly a guide to the executor of your estate, containing all important information not contained in the other documents and also explaining online account access and other such information, like where a safety deposit box key should be and such. This may also include personal letters to people for them to read in the event of your passing and so forth.

There is no tried-and-true method of organizing your information. What matters is that (a) you have it all in a central location so you don’t have to search for it, and (b) your organization within this central place makes sense to you and it is explained in the master document. That master document must be easy to find, but aside from that, it’s up to you.

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