Going paperless for your finances? Here’s what you need to know
Q. I’m thinking of going all digital, stopping all paper statements and bills. What do I need to save — stuff I can download online — and how long do I have to save it. And is there anything I need to have paper for?
A. Going digital can be a great idea.
Once you get yourself set up on the web sites of your financial firms, utilities and other billers, you can still usually access paper statements whenever and if ever you want, said Brian Power, a certified financial planner with Gateway Advisory Group in Westfield.
Power said going digital doesn’t necessary mean you are going completely paperless, but instead allows you to control the paper you want and don’t want.
“Plus keeping paper statements around — unless you keep things in a vault — can also expose you to identity theft if you were to get burglarized,” Power said. “And if you’re like most people I know who are concerned about identity theft, you probably spend a lot of time at the shredder. Going digital will remove that chore from your life.”
Power said there is not a requirement to save paper copies of statements or bills for a certain period of time. That is usually someone’s personal preference.
But going all digital can create its own problems.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to be able to use the same usernames and passwords for different sites based on the sites requirements,” Power said. “Plus, many of them require security questions and again, many of the sites have different security questions to choose from.”
So your challenge will be to remember all of these different website access credentials or save them somewhere safe, secure and quickly accessible.
He recommends you consider using well-respected highly secure password portal cloud solution. This would also require a username and password to access, but then all of your passwords will be stored there so you really only need to remember one username and password to access the password portal.
You can also download and save all your statements. Consider using a secure external hard drive or the cloud as a backup — a smart move in case your hard drive dies.
If you go digital, make sure your executor and maybe another trusted family member knows your portal password, Power said. This way when you pass away, they can access your accounts and know where all of your accounts are held.
“The other way to help your heirs in this situation is to print hard copy of Dec. 31 statements for every one of your financial accounts and store them in a safe place,” Power said. “But again, your executor and another trusted family member should know where you have the paper filed.”
Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.