As a CDFA® professional, I am hired to help bring financial clarity to my clients. A big part of this is collecting documents and keeping track of what has been provided and what is still outstanding.
Most clients send me dozens of documents with no organization, which means they are paying my hourly fee, or even worse, their attorney’s hourly fee to help bring organization to their documents in order to make them usable. Why not do this yourself? When you read this, that probably sounds like a no-brainer. But in my experience, it’s not.
ORGANIZATION WILL SAVE YOU A LOT OF MONEY. Here are some tips to organize your own documents so that you do not pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to have highly-educated professionals do it for you.
- Make a list of all of your household’s accounts: bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, etc. Write down the institution, who owns the account, and the last 4 digits of the account number.
- If you do not have a centralized list with all of your usernames and passwords for these accounts – create a document for this as well. Make sure to password protect this file wherever you save it out.
- Create a “Finances” folder on your computer with the following subfolders and begin saving out supporting documents for each:
- Bank Accounts
- Investment Accounts
- Retirement Accounts
- Credit Cards and Reports
- Taxes and Income Documents
- Expenses/ Budget
- Choose a naming convention for all of your files. For example, for account statements, the naming convention should include the date of the statement, owner’s first and last initial, the institution, type of account, and last 4 digits. For example: 08.23 RD Schwab IRA x1234.
The goal of this is for you to have easy access to your files and also for any professional that you send these files to be able to easily understand what the file is without opening it – this also means they will be able to distinguish this file from other similar files based on the name alone. This will save them time, saving you money.
For each folder above, keep the naming convention the same for each of the files within the folders.
- Begin gathering documents and renaming them as you save them into each folder. Any hard copy documents you have will need to be scanned into the computer as a digital copy. If you have any questions about what kind of documents you should be gathering, read my article linked below, or send me an email to request a document list and I will be happy to send you one.
- Download a budget app like MINT and connect all of your accounts and credit cards. This app will work in the background so that when you eventually want to create a budget, a lot of information will be available for you. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, access your credit card’s website and see what budgeting/ expense categorization tools they already have available.
By organizing your financial documents during a divorce, you’re not just managing paperwork, but setting the stage for a fair and transparent process. This crucial step empowers you to make informed decisions, save money and time, and lays the foundation for a more stable financial future. If you need help understanding what your next right step is or where to start, contact me today.