How Organizing Your Financial Life Can Help Protect It

Clutter. Collectively, we seem to be drowning in it — including the paperwork accumulating on every available surface as it waits to be filed and stored properly.

It’s no wonder, then, that organizing is a hot trend. You can learn how to clear the clutter and release the things that no longer give you joy by watching a popular reality TV show, reading a book or taking an online course.

But what about all that paper, and the sensitive financial and personal information it contains? Fact is, getting organized is more than aesthetics and enjoyment. It’s also a way to help protect your data and assets.

Getting Your Arms Around It

The first step to getting organized may feel like a tall task: Forming a plan to manage all your files, both paper and digital.

Online banking and investments are becoming more of the norm, so dashboards of your full financial life can now be in one place. If you have paper bills that you can easily retrieve online, you may want to go ahead and shred the paper. Be aware, though, that some providers may offer online access to invoices or statements for a certain time period only. If that’s the case, you can download a PDF of the digital document and store it on a hard drive or in another secure location, like a cloud-based account that offers encryption or additional security protections.

As I share with my clients, there may be some documents that you’ll want to keep in paper form, such as your financial plan along with key legal, insurance and financial paperwork. I recommend putting all these important documents in one large binder. (You’ll also want to get a three-hole punch or organizational folders that already have holes.) And you can take advantage of a family records organizer. Morgan Stanley has its own version for clients, but there are various sources that offer such organizers in the marketplace.

The second step to getting organized is critical to the process. You’ll need to be proactive about keeping your paper and digital documents secure.

Why Security Is So Important

 There are a few steps you can take to help protect your data.

  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) instead of a public Wi-Fi hotspot to access your files when you’re away from your home or office. Also, avoid publicly available charging cords or USB ports.
  • Keep your software, operating system and browser up-to-date and install security updates as soon as they are released.
  • Store financial documents securely and shred them before discarding.[1]

 Tidying up your financial life may not just decrease your clutter. It may also bring greater confidence, and even joy. Isn’t it time you felt it?


Kristen Fricks-Roman is a Financial Advisor with the Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Atlanta. The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives. Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee their accuracy or completeness. Morgan Stanley and its Financial Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Before investing, investors should consider whether tax or other benefits are only available for investments in the investor’s home state 529 college savings plan. Investors should carefully read the Program Disclosure statement, which contains more information on investment options, risk factors, fees and expenses, and possible tax consequences before purchasing a 529 plan. You can obtain a copy of the Program Disclosure Statement from the 529 plan sponsor or your Financial Advisor. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC. CRC 2235406 09/18 NMLS# 1279347
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