How To Organize Your Financial Files

by Ron Haynes

It can be intimidating – all those financial files and papers pleading for organization. If that corner of your kitchen counter is getting piled high with everything from banking account statements to your 401(k) documentation, you’re probably ready. But first check out which financial files and paperwork you should save and for how long.

file-cabinet First, don’t run out and buy some huge 4-drawer filing cabinet for your financial files and paperwork. For now, a plastic “see-through” filing box with a handle that accommodates hanging file folders will do. Once you need more room for your financial files, look to buy a second-hand file cabinet at a garage sale, used office furniture store, or from your own company (sometimes they have old extras hanging around).

The advantage of the file cabinet with a handle is you can take your financial files with you – to your accountant during tax season, to your mortgage broker when you refinance your mortgage, to your kitchen table when you’re ready to pay the bills. It really has a lot of advantages.

Which financial files to set up:

  • Taxes
    1. Income
    2. Deductions
    3. Property
  • Insurance
    1. Life
    2. Car
    3. Homeowners
    4. Health
  • Banking
    1. Checking
    2. Savings
    3. Money Market
    4. Certificates of Deposit
    5. Other
  • Real Estate
    1. Mortgage/Lease
    2. Rental Properties
    3. Vacation Home
  • Credit Cards
    1. Visa
    2. MasterCard
    3. Discover
    4. American Express
  • Home
    1. Repairs/Upgrades/Improvements
    2. Appraisal
  • Automobiles
    1. Car #1
    2. Car #2
  • Retirement
    1. 401(k)
    2. ESOP
  • Brokerage account
  • Estate Planning
    1. Will
    2. Trust
    3. Directives
  • Legal
  • To Do
  • To Be Paid
  • Within each hanging folder, I place manila folders to better organize what is going on within that category of my personal finances. For example, with INSURANCE labeled as the hanging folder, I put in manila folders with labels corresponding to each sub-category (life, health, auto, homeowners, etc).

    By using this system, I’m better able to find what I need when I need it. Once your small carrying-around file box is full, move older items to a larger file cabinet.

    What tips do you have for organizing your personal financial files?

    Photo by jessica mullen

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Thanks for posting this. This is one of the areas in my financial life that could use some improvement. I have the clear plastic bin that you speak of as well as many of the categories. However, one thing that I really would like to do is to also have them stored electronically somewhere. Especially the important documents that should some sort of natural disaster happen, I know that I have a copy of it somewhere in the cloud.


This is something we all need to do, and most of us dread it. I like the way you outlined the files to create; this is useful information and a great place to start! Hardcopies of important financial documents are essential but try paying as many bills as you can online and sign up for paperless billing. You will save time, money (no stamps), and trees!

Business Organizer

The list of categories you have created in this post is great, and once you get into the routine of doing it this way, it will be no trouble at all.

stephanie parrott

Where do I find how long to keep certain files? Are bank statments every okay to throw away? hwo about old credit card statments on closed accounts?


Bank statements should be kept for seven years since they could contain tax information. Personally, I’d feel more comfortable keeping that information for ten years before shredding them.

Credit card statements should be kept until you’ve completed your tax rerun for the year that the statement covers.

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