Where Do You Store Your Financial Records?

by Ryan

I went to turn on my computer yesterday and was greeted by a black screen and about as much response as I get from girls I talk to at the beach ;) My laptop died, sad day, but I’m over it. I wasn’t too concerned, it’s only a laptop, there are internet cafes and plenty of ways to access the internet (I’m currently sitting at the library using up my free 1 hour of internet time), but what I was wondering was, did I save all my financial records, or was there anything I absolutely need on the computer that I can’t get back?

What Financial Records do we Need?

For taxes we need our W2′s from previous employers, these are often in paper form and sent via the mail (at least in my experience) so you should have a hard copy. You can always call them and get another copy as well.

Bank statements, retirement funds, and other investments often send you paper statements in the mail either monthly or quarterly, unless you’ve opted out. Even if you opt out then you’ll be able to access your information via the internet on their websites, where you can upload pdf versions of previous statements to print out.

Net worth statements, cash flow statements, and your personal balance sheet are the things that are probably not backed up online. If you’re updating your net worth and balance sheet monthly or quarterly it’s most likely via an excel statement, or program that isn’t online based. This was the case for me, so I’m out my previous records. It’s not too rough for me since my net worth is very tiny at the moment and easy to calculate, and as a recent college grad it doesn’t go back too far. However, if you have 10-20 years or records on your computer, it could be a hit below the belt.

You may also want copies of your letters of recommendation, resumes, cover letters, business plans, and anything else that goes into your entreprenurial endevours. Depending on what you’re working on, you may cry for several hours once your computer crashes. I’m still in denial, so have yet to cry since I lost quite a few hours of work that wasn’t backed up!

Storing Your Financial Records

In my mind there are two options for storing your financial records (If you know of more options please feel free to add them in the comments below). You could choose one, or be super safe and do both. The first would be saving your information on hardware you have in your presence, such as a USB flash drive or via an external hard drive. This comes in handy because you can control where your information is stored and feel in control. However, you could lose your flash drive or have it stolen, which would be the furthest thing from cool.

The second would be what’s called “cloud storage.” I’m a big fan or remote server storage, or being “in the cloud” that is, uploading information to a server somewhere else. You don’t have to worry about losing your physical hardware, and you can access the information anywhere with an internet connection. I like to use Amazon S3 Storage because they only charge for the amount you use and it’s minimal. I pay less than $2 a month to store a huge amount of information on their servers, so I’m a pretty darn happy customer.

So I suppose having a computer really isn’t all that important to your financial record keeping. It sure makes my life easier, but isn’t a necessity. I would recommend looking into “cloud storage” as it’s a great way to be mobile and still access your important files. It’ll probably be about 2 weeks before I get another computer so I apologize for longer delay times as I’m only able to run to internet cafes to check emails and repond to posts in the upcoming weeks.

How do you like to store your financial records and information?

Do you keep paper copies of everything, or do you trust technology?

Would you like to send me a new laptop? ;)

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

BibleDebt April 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm

@Lakita – I am with you. I try to use cloud storage as much as possible, but you must have a hard copy backup of the important stuff.

Great article to make us think about this before your only copy goes POOF!
.-= BibleDebt´s last blog ..Lower Your Bills: Free Wireless Phone Service =-.

Lakita (PFJourney) April 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm

I’m a fan of cloud storage, though I also keep hard copies…I guess its a little redundant, but if one fails I have the other.
.-= Lakita (PFJourney)´s last blog ..7 Actions for Financial Spring Cleaning =-.

Meghan April 1, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Sorry to hear about your laptop!

As for me, I trust technology. Google docs is my personal favorite.
.-= Meghan´s last blog ..Savings Goals: Laptops vs White Boards =-.

Laura @ LivingOurWay.com April 1, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Good point. I know that I tend to forget what is saved on my hard drive. If you can spare $200, Best Buy can pull the data off for you…I’d rather just back it up myself though.
.-= Laura @ LivingOurWay.com´s last blog ..Signs of Spring =-.

DaybreakJoe April 1, 2010 at 4:27 pm

In the same vein as cloud storage is using a site like Mint.com. Keeps all of your transactional information, net worth statements, budgets, etc. Best part is, it’s free.

Bradley Gauthier April 2, 2010 at 3:33 am

I completely agree, disaster recovery is essential these days. Luckily, there is a ton of excellent technology available. Storing data onsite should no longer be your only method of backing up your files. As mentioned, the “cloud” is ideal but there are a couple additional programs that I use outside of Amazon’s S3… (not going to link drop so Google them if interested). The two I use: Dropbox – creates a virtual folder on your desktop and instantly uploads any file you want to their servers. Also, Evernote is amazing! It is an OCR that you can take a picture/scan of any paper (ie. store receipt) and it will automatically upload it to their servers. The cool thing about the service is that it will convert all of the text on the paper to a digital version, in other words, you can search for any word on any paper you’ve ever scanned.
A few others that I’d recommend are Mozy, Sugarsync and Box.net

Another great post Ryan! Thanks!
.-= Bradley Gauthier´s last blog ..Questioning Everything: The Missing Art of Critical Thinking =-.

LenciB: Falling Into favor April 2, 2010 at 5:54 am

I have all of mine stored in their hardcopy form. I’m behind, clearly!

Investing Newbie April 2, 2010 at 6:34 am

I mix the tech with paper. Like a bit of old and new. I know I can access most of the information I need online, but I still keep all of my pay stubs from the last three months and a printout of my taxes for the last 5 years. I’ve only been doing taxes for 2, but I will keep them on a 5 year rolling basis.

On the last question, I’ll get back to you…
.-= Investing Newbie´s last blog ..Expense Report – March 2010 =-.

Search Engine Viking April 2, 2010 at 7:57 am

Yikes – I don’t back up anything. I know I should, I’m just lazy… Reading your story might make me change my tune.

Fortunately I don’t have much, either. The only thing I track is my checkbook (which is online at my bank), but I break it down in an Excel file, and I’d cry if I lost it.
.-= Search Engine Viking´s last blog ..Bad Robots, Welcome To Captchaville =-.

Kristine April 2, 2010 at 8:12 am

Oh man…I don’t have a backup for my financial information. I guess I never thought that one day my computer would die on me. Thanks for sharing about the cloud storage…sounds like the plan for me.
.-= Kristine´s last blog ..Term vs Whole Life Insurance – The Battle Begins =-.

Little House April 2, 2010 at 8:25 am

Funny you should mention this. Yesterday, I couldn’t get my monitor to “see” my hard drive. I freaked. Most of my documents are stored on a shared server, not on my desktop itself, so that was OK. However, my Quickbooks hadn’t been backed-up in a few days (major issue there.) AND I have a lot of information stored in my Outlook. It’s not the best place to store info, but that’s how I organize some of my stuff. Luckily, my husband was able to reboot my computer (another issue I’ve been having with it, it doesn’t like rebooting) and I immediately backed up my Outlook and Quickbooks to the external server. Whew!

So, lesson learned. Purchase an external hard drive, store ALL your info there. That way you can attach it to any laptop or desktop and access your info. Fry’s Electronics (if Hawaii has one of these stores) usually have great deals on Seagate External Hard drives.
.-= Little House´s last blog ..Why Don’t I Qualify for a Roth IRA? =-.

Samurai April 2, 2010 at 10:18 am

Bummer Ryan. I feel mine is on its last legs as well, a 6 year old ibook G4. I like to back up a lot of files on e-mail too. Guess it may not be as safe, but I know how much money I have to the last $100. Everything has insurance anyway.

You gonna get a Mac or a PC?

Best,

Sam
.-= Samurai´s last blog ..Riding Rocketships For Greater Success =-.

Moon Hussain April 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm

I believe I have the W2′s in a folder. But you remind me, I need to back up my hd. All the work I’ve done for my blog or even the affiliate sites could all be gone: poof!

Sorry to hear about your laptop. Will you be getting a used or new one?
.-= Moon Hussain´s last blog ..Fun Friday Round-Up: Tasty Blogs For Your Yummy Brunch! =-.

Simple in France April 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I’m always kind of a chicken about storing personal info online. We use our computers plus a hard drive . . .and we even have some paper copies (gasp). That said, I really prefer any accounts to be accessible online and to come with online statements because I HATE receiving a bunch of stuff in the mail– I suppose that if most of our investments and banking are accessible online, storing a little more personal info shouldn’t freak me out.

Jeremy Johnson April 2, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Hopefully your laptop wasn’t too costly to lose – sounds like it was old and time for getting a new one. Mine is going on three years old now, so I am thinking to be more careful now. My wife and I keep track of finances online these days, using mint.com and Microsoft Money to track it all.

I figure technology is so prevalent and able to use that I don’t keep paper copies of much anymore – just the essentials.
.-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..Passive Income Experiment – Beachbody Coaching =-.

Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey April 2, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Those flash drives come in handy when storing information. This is a wake-up call for me. If my laptop crashed on me I might be in a little bit of trouble. So I’ll have to take the necessary steps to make sure I cover my assets.

Thanks for sharing!!
.-= Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey´s last blog ..You Know You’re Favored by God When… =-.

The Simple Machine April 3, 2010 at 6:17 am

The only problem is that when you start using a usb drive to backup, sometimes you start using the usb drive as the primary storage.

If your usb drive crashes (rarely happens, but does) – it is very expensive to go about recovering data. I think I was quoted about $800.

Plus as you pointed out, there are always issues of losing your usb dive!
.-= The Simple Machine´s last blog ..Renting can make you rich, but you maybe to traditional to realize this. =-.

harvestwages April 3, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Hey Ryan,
Sorry for the damage,
Getting another laptop is a must have.
Backing up financial reports is very necessary, especially on hard copy. I think hard copy is still the most safe way to store financial information. I haven’t yet tried the “cloud” option.
.-= harvestwages´s last blog ..The Challenges of a Retired Life =-.

Austin @ TheOrangePaper.com April 4, 2010 at 5:04 pm

In my opinion, a weekly backup on an external drive works fine. And, the financial institution does send the hard copy on a half yearly basis — so that takes care of the printed copy as well.

Scott Barron April 6, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I went “green” three years ago. I walk to my physical mailbox once a week.

I have an Excel spreadsheet that balances my checking account. Everything else is housed on other servers. My tax information is held with Turbo Tax, my mortgage information is on the banks website, and 401K is viewed at the work intranet.

Luckily, it seems there is always an electronic backup somewhere. I also back my computer up to an external hard drive. However, email is the easiest to lose forever. I have Microsoft Outlook pull my emails from server without leaving a copy, so when Outlook crashed, I lost everything.

Oddly, losing all my internet favorites bothered me the MOST. I have about 50 bookmarks, some I use daily, and some rarely, but I’m spoiled. There are some websites I’ll never find again because they were bookmarked and I’ve forgotten them. AND passwords! I have a master password list on my computer; I’d be lost without it. I only use Turbo Tax once a year. And I NEVER remember that password.
.-= Scott Barron´s last blog ..Why Use A Website Worksheet? =-.

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