Step 67: Digitize your documents

Step 67 of the 100 Steps mission to financial independence: Digitize your Documents
Step 67 of the 100 Steps mission: Digitize your Documents

In the previous step we looked at how to organize your paperwork and file important documents to make sure you never have any financial document “misplaced” somewhere around the house when you need it. Of course in this day and age, having a physical filing system might not be your thing. Perhaps you prefer to have all your papers stored digitally.

There are a few advantages of digital filing:

  • it takes up less space in your house
  • a lot of your documents might already be digital (your utilities bills might already be sent to you by email instead of by post for example).
  • digital documents can be searched easier with tags or keywords
  • digital files don’t have the risk of fading or getting torn accidentally.

If you rather have everything in digital format instead of in variour folders in your home office, let’s look at how to set up a digital filing system quickly and efficiently.

How to digitize

You need to get all of your papers in digital format in some way and the easiest ways to do so include:

  • Opt to get as much as possible sent to you digitally: utilities bills, bank statements, insurance policies etc. Most companies and banks have an area in your personal area online (after you log in) where you can also find your last couple of statements.
  • Scan other documents such as receipts and payslips that you can’t get sent to you by email. This of course requires you to buy a scanner so you can scan these papers and send them to your computer.
  • take a photo of the document with your mobile phone (make sure it is of a good enough quality) and send it to your computer or filing app such as Evernote – there are some apps available that can do the work for you even better than your regular phone camera.

How to store your documents

Digitizing your documents is only step one: if you still don’t have a filing system in place to store your documents, but have them scattered all over the place on your computer or in your email, it is a little bit like having several big shoe boxes around the house with a collection of papers in them everywhere: you still won’t be able to find anything and you could have saved yourself the hassle of scanning all those papers. Here are some ways to  set up a proper digital filing structure and save those documents in a logical way:

  • Use your email – some bills might already be sent into your email and if you use a scanner or the camera of your mobile phone, it is easy to forward these documents straight into your email. You can set up various folders and sub folders similar to what we discussed in the previous step on a physical filing system.
  • Use your local hard drive – create folders into which you download and save the documents.
  • Use an external hard drive – in addition to using your local harddrive on your computer make back ups on another external harddrive. If you don’t and your computer busts, you’ll be left with no filing system and documents. You can set up automatic backing up of your computer, for example once a month.
  • Use CDs, DVDs or a pendrive as long-term back ups in addition to the hard drive. You can decide to save your entire filing system easily in a few minutes. It’s a good idea to keep a copy elsewhere, away from your house, just to be safe. It can’t hurt to have your files stored away somewhere else in case anything ever happened.
  • Use the cloud – google docs or other online storing systems work well to make sure your information is safely stored and accessible from anywhere if you feel comfortable having your documents stored online.
  • Use a specific programme such as Evernote – this often lets you clip, store and attach photos to notes and documents, you can again set up a similar folder structure. Like google docs, an advantage of a programme like this is again that you can access it from anywhere.

 

Step 67 – Digitizing your Documents – in detail

  • First of, decide whether “going digital” is really your thing. If not, just stick with the physical filing system. You have to use what works for you, not what you think you should be using. If you go with a system that you don’t feel connected to, you’re just going to abandon it in a few weeks.
  • If you have decided that you definitely want to move away from a physical filing system, then let’s get started.
    • You’ll probably need a scanner of some sorts. There are great mini, portable scanners available or alternatively you might want to go for a standard desktop scanner.
    • Decide where your filing system will be stored: email, hard drive, Evernote, google docs etc. If you are already familiar with some of these programmes, it might be easier to also use them for your filing, but look around a little bit to make sure you find a system that works for you.
  • Before you start scanning your entire collection of papers, go through everything you have and throw away anything you no longer need. No point scanning those papers if they are redundant anyway.
  • Start little by little, commit to doing a section each weekend or to scan 10 documents a day.
  • As soon as you have scanned, make sure to file. Don’t just leave stuff on your computer or in your email un-processed, as it will all again pile up and become an unmanageable chaos.
  • Depending on the system you use you might be able to tag each file with keywords to make it easier to find them again at a later stage. This would especially be useful for receipts for example.
  • Make it a habit to scan new documents once a week and process them immediately. Consider using the same 5 basket system as mentioned in the previous step in which you sort your papers as soon as you come back home every day. The only difference is that your “file” basket would be used for papers that need scanning and filing instead of for papers that need to be put in a folder in your home office.

And that is all there is to creating a physical filing system my friends. Happy scanning!

Read more about my 100 steps mission to financial independence or simply decide to take control today and join us on our step-by-step quest on how to make your finances work for you, starting with step 1.

 

Step 66: Organize your Paperwork

Step 66 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Organize your Paperwork
Step 66: Organize your Paperwork

We’ve already mentioned this quickly when talking about warranties, but one of the worst things is to have your finances all in order and then not being able to find important financial documents when you need them, such as insurance policies, warranties or bank statements or income stubs for your tax return. Come to think of it, is it even possible to become financially organized without having your home administration organized? Hmmm maybe not.

Having a proper, up-to-date and easy to understand filing system, doesn’t just guarantee less stress and time lost when you are looking for things. It also ensures you don’t waste money on a new product if your old one still had a guarantee on it, allows you to quickly check you still have the right insurance, stops you forgetting to pay outstanding bills and makes is easy to check your credit card statements are all correct.

In this step you are going to set up a home administration to make sure you’ll never end up in a situation where you can’t find your important financial statements.  Continue reading

Step 65: Give to Charity

Step 65 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Give to Charity
Step 65: Give to Charity

Enough about your finances. Let’s for a moment not talk about you anymore but about others who are less fortunate than you and who could do with even just a tiny fraction of your wealth. Yes I know that you have so many plans and that you want more money and that you really will start giving to charity some time soon, and that you are just waiting til after you get that promotion as then you’ll have some more breathing space but with your debt, and mortgage and financial obligations you really can’t at the moment….

Remember step 31 though? In which we spoke about how you will never have enough money? Not now, not tomorrow, not next year? If you don’t remember or if you are convinced you really honestly hand-on-your-heart don’t have money for charity, please return to step 31 now, reread it and see if you still feel the same after reading it. If you do, read on anyway as you will learn that you can give to charity without giving money. If after reading until the end you still believe you can’t give in any way, then okay…ignore me.

But if you truly understand step 31 AND really want to give to charity, remember that doesn’t have to be hundreds of dollars a year. It is a little like saving money: start with it early, even if you can only contribute $1 a month, or $10 a year. That is not only still $10 a year, but it also gets you into the habit of giving so that  every time when you can, it will be easy to just increase that contribution, to make space for it in your budget and to remember that there are so many who are less lucky than you and to whom your (however small) contribution can make a big difference.  Continue reading

Step 64: Tax Planning

Step 64 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Tax Planning
Step 64 of the 100 steps: Tax Planning

Wow okay, I know, tax planning might sound even more boring or complicated than our previous “introduction to taxes”. But what’s the point knowing about taxes if you don’t use that information to your advantage? And if you think that tax planning is again for the rich and famous only, you’re wrong … Most legislations are designed is such a way to even give the ordinary man and woman some tax relief in certain areas. You should use those as that is what they are for.

Now let’s start with the single most important first requirement for this step: never, ever, not in a million years avoid paying taxes or try to mislead the tax authorities. Don’t ever even think of it. The tax authorities are smarter than you and you’ll end up in jail and that is NOT worth the extra money you might be getting or think you might be getting. Besides that, it’s morally wrong. Just don’t do it.

Good, now that is sorted, let’s have a look at some very basic tax planning principles you might be able to apply to your own life, that might help you save some bucks.  Just keep an eye on that fine line between tax planning and tax evasion though as if you get carried away with it too much, you might end up on the wrong side of that line. Continue reading

Step 63: An Introduction to Taxes

Step 63 of the 100 Steps to Financial Independence: An Introduction to taxes
Step 63: An Introduction to taxes

So you might have thought pensions and insurance sounded boring. Well then taxes sounds probably even more dull to you..Yet in order to manage your money well and plan for a secure financial future, you need to have at least a basic understanding of taxes. And with basic I mean a little more than just, “yeah I know the government takes out some money on whatever I earn”. Eh… right, but that’s not enough to use that information to your advantage.

In this step we will look at a quick overview of the various taxes that you are most likely liable to at the moment or potentially in the future. Every country varies tremendously in terms of which taxes apply, how high they are, whether they have a flat rate or a scale and what the exclusion terms are. This step is therefore only meant to provide an overview of possible taxes around the world: you’ll have to do some work afterwards yourself and find out the rates for your country or state.

Taxes are of course meant to fund the main expenditures of the government, such as national security (police and army), infrastructure (roads and sewage), legal system, health care, education system and also to pay anybody working for the state. Now let’s look at the most common taxes that exist:

Income tax

Income tax is charged on the income of individuals and companies. Many countries use a scaled tax system in which the more you earn the higher the percentage you pay. Income tax can be divided into the following categories: Continue reading

Step 62: Warranties and Service Contracts

Step 62 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Warranties and Service Contracts
Step 62: Warranties and Service Contracts

When you make a big purchase such as a new car or appliance for your house, the selling company often provides a warranty on the product. The warranty is a guarantee for a set period of time during which the manufacturer promises a correct functioning of the product and to replace or repair the product if the product is faulty.

Warranties are very important to understand and keep as they can save you a lot of money and worries if you ever need them. This step will look at warranties and extra warranties in detail, so you can assess any current warranties you have and to allow you to compare and evaluate warranties on any future purchases.

What a warranty typically includes

Normally a warranty will specify and /or include the following:

  • How long it is valid for. For some products this might be no more than 6 months, other products might be covered for several years.
  • What circumstances might void the warranty. The manufacturer often includes reasons why a warranty might cease to be valid, such as not having done regular maintenance check ups and servicing or using the product incorrectly.
  • Services included: what happens if the product is faulty? Will it be replaced, repaired or will your money be refunded?
  • Services excluded: this might not actually be stated in the warranty, but make sure you find out what is not included if your product fails. Think of costs to do with transporting the product to the shop or factory, labor charges etc.
  • Does it include costs you might have as a consequence of the product being faulty? For example if your washing machine floods your house, will the damage to other objects and furniture be covered, or if the fridge-freezer breaks will you be reimbursed for any of the contents gone off?

Continue reading

Step 61: Disability Insurance

Step 61 of the 100 Steps to Financial Independence: Disability Insurance
Step 61 of the 100 Steps: Disability Insurance

A disability insurance provides you with financial compensation in the event of a disability that stops you from going back to work. It covers your future wage by paying a certain percentage of your wage, often around 60-70%,  either until you are able to go back to work again or for as long as the policy contracted states that you are entitled to the compensation.

There could be several reasons for somebody being unable to work, including illness, medical conditions or after an accident. The difference with a medical insurance is that the latter only covers your medical bills, not the fact that you no longer have an income to support you financially. In some cases and countries social security might offer a disability coverage, but conditions vary greatly and it might not kick in until after a certain time, sometimes not even til after a year.

Do you need disability insurance?

The chances of becoming disabled before retirement age can be 2 – 3 times higher than the odds of dying before retirement age so there is a relatively big chance you might become disabled at some point. Due to this high chance, disability insurance tends to be fairly expensive. There are several situations in which you might not need disability insurance, including: Continue reading