January is a great time to clean out the closets and the desks. Elsewhere on on our site, you will find our record retention guidelines for tax and financial documents. This is a good starting point.
Have you considered creating an organized electronic filing system? It's really quite easy and will free you of the burden of organizing, filing and storing paper documents.
To start with, think about how you would organize a filing cabinet if you were using paper files. Perhaps you would have a file drawer for each year, and within that drawer, you would have a folder for each company, bank or other type of document. The same theory holds true for filing electronically. Start by creating the folders that will hold the documents that you will be filing. And then, create one additional folder that will temporarily hold the scanned documents.
The next step is to invest in a good scanner (which can also serve as a printer/copier). Ideally, you will want one that has both a flatbed scanner and a document feeder. Be sure to set up your scanner to scan as a pdf type document rather than a picture file. Then, ready, set, scan. An easy enough task to do while watching an afternoon movie or game. As the documents are scanned into your temporary scan folder, name them appropriately. Once you have a bunch of documents scanned, simply "file" them into their appropriate folders that you have set up.
The next step is to download the documents that you normally receive electronically. Remember, if you ever choose to close a bank or brokerage account, your access will be permanent lost! Again, file these into the appropriate folders that you ahve set up.
Once the new system becomes a habit, you will realize how easy this is to maintain. Another advantage is that if you need to refer to a document, it is so easy to find! And, be sure your discarded documents that contain sensitive financial information are shredded before they make their way to the recycle bin.