Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Filing systems, online and off

Today's gripe: Why are all filing cabinets ugly? Even Design Within Reach couldn't come up with a non-ugly cabinet.

I'm looking for a filing cabinet because I'm finally attempting to organize my ancient one, which is utterly overstuffed. (And ugly.) This also reminded me to look up the latest data on how long I should be keeping various financial papers.

An increasing number of my financial intuitions offer paperwork online. My banking statements, credit card statements, quarterly 401k statements, pay stubs and W-2s for up to three years, and phone and cable bills are all available at the providers' websites. Possibly foolishly, this dissuades me from keeping printed copies. Why should I sock away a pile of pay stubs when I can go to ADP's website and print out years' worth, if I ever run into a need for them? I have great faith in the Internet's storage powers.

What I have learned to print and keep, though, are tax returns. TaxAct, and probably all the other providers, regard storing returns as a 'premium' service. You get access for a few months, then poof, no more online return unless you want to pay extra fees.