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How to spring clean your finances.

Whether the weather agrees with it or not, spring has sprung. In between rain showers, be sure to crack open those windows, let the fresh air in, and brush any lingering winter dust bunnies out from under your furniture (don’t worry – we won’t judge you for letting things get extra cobwebby).

And your home isn’t the only thing that could use some sprucing up this spring. Tax season is a great excuse to pull out and organize those piles of bills, T4s and everything-in-betweens. Here’s how you can safely organize and dispose of your financial documents this spring.

First things first, sort it out.

Arguably the hardest part is always starting. While you might be tempted to chuck the entire paper pile into the recycling bin, be wary that fraud is a very real and growing problem in Canada. So, start by giving the pile some R&R: Retain and Recycle.

You’ll want to review and sort the pile into two categories: ‘Retain’ and ‘Recycle.’ Any documents you want/need to keep will go in the ‘Retain’ pile, and any paperwork that you want to safely dispose of goes in your ‘Recycle’ stack.

The things you need.

Items to hold onto, or ‘Retain’ include:

  • All tax documents going back six years (as required by the CRA)
  • Mortgage documents
  • Titles to real estate
  • Insurance policies
  • Inventories of insured possessions
  • Investment holdings
  • Pension papers
  • Wills & power-of-attorney documents

… And the things you don’t.

Items to safely get rid of, or ‘Recycle’ include:

  • Old bank account & credit card statements
  • Old cheque duplicates
  • Credit reports
  • Financial transaction records
  • Old investment account reports
  • Paid bills
  • Receipts
  • Pay stubs
  • Any expired credit/debit cards

Now, time to organize.

You may end up with more than you’d like in the ‘Retain’ pile. And that’s totally normal. The key at this point is to keep it all organized, both physically and digitally.

  • Sort it out – Use lockable files or drawers to separate out your documents into relevant categories. For example, one folder for bank & credit card statements, one folder for mortgage and property documents, etc. Just be sure that it’s a system that makes sense for you.
  • Go digital – If you’re more the digital type (and you don’t need the original version of a document), digitally save your paperwork and then recycle the paper. Invest in an electronic receipt and document organization system to easily scan and upload digital copies of your important documents. That way, you’re able to electronically manage and store your expenses for tax season. P.S. always make sure you’re using a secure, password protected device.

What about that ‘Recycle’ pile?

  • Shred away. Run any financial papers that you’re discarding through a shredder before tossing them in the recycling bin. This’ll ensure you avoid the risk of identity theft and fraud. A good portable shredder will do the trick for most home and personal shredding tasks.
  • Protect yourself. Be sure to shred all information that relates to your finances, or that can be used to access your accounts. Things like your PIN, credit card information, account numbers, and your signature. Also, shred all personal information fraudsters can use to take your identity. This includes your name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number, social insurance number, mother’s maiden name, usernames and passwords for online services, and your passport number.

Final tips.

  • Check your statements and accounts regularly. Immediately report any unauthorized transactions to your financial institution. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to check your credit report once a year for any unauthorized activity.
  • Stay on top of your pile. By filing and organizing as you go, you’ll avoid the headache and mad rush of going through everything come next tax season.
  • Consider going paperless. Whenever possible, ask to receive all your statements and bills electronically. Not only is it more convenient and friendly on the environment, but it’s safe as well. We offer eStatements, a secure and convenient way to view your Coast Capital financial statements online. Best of all, they’ll be saved and accessible for seven years.