Blog: Can We Have Some Order Here?
Consolidate Your Insurance Papers
Insurance is a crucial part of modern life -- your stuff, your well-being, and your loved ones all need protecting against the unexpected. Aside from claims information, most insurance policies don't generate a huge amount of paperwork -- but it's really important paperwork, and you need a solid system for keeping it all organized.
A General Rule Of Thumb
All of your original policies, regardless of the type of coverage, should be stored in a safety deposit box or fire safe. You may certainly keep copies in your everyday files or a PDF version on your computer for quick reference -- but the original paper documents require a higher level of protection. Just let anyone who would need access to these policies (should something happen to you) know where they are stored.
But don't worry about trying to hang on to all of your premium statements. These are just like utility bills and credit card statements -- useful for a limited period of time, then trash. Put the monthly/quarterly/annual premium receipts in your "paid bills" folder, to be cleaned out at the end of each year.
Many of us these days have multiple life insurance policies -- we might have one through work, a couple of private term life policies, some life insurance annuities, and even those "freebie" accidental death and dismemberment plans that come with your credit card or bank accounts. The easiest way to organize these is to simply place all of your policies in one "life insurance" file and store it in your safe deposit box or fire safe. And you may have your property insurance policies (car, home, umbrella, etc.) with several different companies. Unless there is a strong reason for doing this, it is better to consolidate them all under one provider. Not only will you receive better rates, but your paperwork will be drastically reduced. Your company may even lump all of your policies together in one document each year.
If you're like most people, you get a pile of paperwork from your insurance company every time you have a doctor visit -- explanation of benefits, a bill from the medical office, notices from your supplemental insurance programs, endless memos, etc. It can seem sort of overwhelming, but what they all boil down to is determining who pays for what.
With that in mind, there are only 5 reasons to keep heath insurance records for more than the current tax year -- because you:
- are in the middle of filing a claim
- have a dispute over a bill
- take a medical tax deduction
- have to document use of an HSA
- need to prove that you have met your annual deductible
Set up one folder labeled "current claims" for those items that are still in process. Clip all the documents relating to a procedure or visit together as they arrive in the mail, and store them in this file until you have heard from all parties involved and gotten your final bill. Then you can review everything at once to make sure there are no mistakes or miscalculations. If you are satisfied with the final result, you can pay the bill and file the stack in your permanent "completed claims" folder. If you have a question or concern, you can move the stack to your "claims to dispute" file, to be dealt with accordingly. Separating your paperwork according to the stage of the process prevents confusion about what has been paid and what hasn't.
If you manage to rack up enough out-of-pocket medical expenses to warrant a tax deduction, you will also need to include your claim records and medical bills with your supporting tax documents for that year. These files will be kept for 6 years, in case you are audited by the IRS. If you have not taken a deduction, any completed claims can be purged from your files in January, when your deductible calculation starts over for the new year.
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posted on: 8/18/2011 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips
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Can We Have Some Order Here?
by Ramona Creel
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I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!
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