Chapter 6. Create a Filing System

One of my longtime coworkers is, without a doubt, the most organized person I've ever known. With the exception of a couple of snapshots of her kids, her desk is so clean and clutter-free that it might as well belong to an intern. And while many of us shipped several huge boxes of documents to Morningstar's new office when we moved last December, Bridget sent just a few.

So, what's her secret? Like all truly organized people, she never has to put "get organized" on her to-do list. When it comes to paperwork, she deals with it as soon as she puts her hands on it rather than setting it in a "deal with this later" pile. She either takes action with the item—by reading it or forwarding it—files it, or recycles or shreds it. That's precisely the strategy that you should use to stay on top of your financial paperwork.

Technology can be your friend when it comes to reducing clutter and staying organized. Most financial services providers will give you the option to receive your statements electronically; not only is that the green alternative, but it also reduces the amount of paper that you'll have to deal with. (I discussed online bill paying in Chapter 5.) And for those documents that you'd like to save, you can scan them and store them on your computer rather than having to find a home for a piece of paper. As we all become more comfortable with technology, I expect that households will save less and less financial paperwork.

The specific system you use ...

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