There’s more to managing your money than the shoebox filled with crumpled receipts under your bed. Organizing paperwork and keeping track of financial and legal documents is imperative to your financial well-being, according to Patrice C. Washington.

“It is hard to stay on top of your finances if documents are scattered about,” notes Washington, a regular guest on the Steve Harvey Morning Show and author of Real Money Answers for Every Woman. “On top of that, many people don’t know which types of documents they need or even where to start.”

To put your financial house in order, Washington suggests you start by organizing documents into seven key categories. Start with seven file folders and work from this checklist: 

  1. Personal Legal Documents: This folder should contain copies of birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage license, divorce papers, social security card, passport, will, and power of attorney papers. A sub-folder could contain vehicle ownership papers and mortgage or real estate deeds, if applicable.
  2. Tax Statements: Always make sure to keep copies of property tax statements, personal property tax statements and at a minimum, your previous three years’ tax returns.
  3. Financial Accounts: Maintain a running order of your financial accounts with up to date bank/credit union statements, credit/debit card statements, retirement accounts (401k, TSP, IRA, etc.), and investment accounts (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc).
  4. Income/ Assets: Tracing the sources of where your money is coming from will assist with creating a realistic budget. Keep recent pay stubs for all sources of income, government benefits (social security, temporary assistance, etc.), alimony income, child support income, professional appraisals of personal property, and rewards accounts.
  5. Financial Obligations: Know where your money is going. List your financial obligations such as mortgage statements, lease, utility bills, car payments, student loans, alimony and/or child support payments, and other debts to know where you stand financially.
  6. Insurance: All statements and bills related to property, rental, auto and life insurance policies should be kept in this folder.
  7. Medical: Keeping all health-related documents together will make it easier to handle any medical emergency. If you are incapacitated, your “in case of emergency” contact should have access to copies of health insurance ID Cards, records of immunizations and/or allergies, list of necessary medications, disabilities documentation, dental records and living will / power of attorney.

Known as the Money Maven of the Steve Harvey Morning Show, Patrice C. Washington is the Founder and CEO of Seek Wisdom Find Wealth, a personal finance training and development firm based in Atlanta, GA. She has been featured on NBC, The Huffington Post, Upscale Magazine, and was recently appointed editor-at-large at Patrice is the author of an Amazon #1 Best Seller in Personal Finance, Real Money Answers for Every Woman: How to Win the Money Game With or Without a Man.

Photo by Sal Falko, Flickr, via CC license

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