5-Minute Fixes: Choose Where to Store Your Personal Documents
A year ago I told where to store your important papers. (Hint: in secure, online storage.) This year, I’ve changed my mind: we need both physical and digital storage solutions. Let’s make a deliberate choice, in the next five minutes, where to store our records.
Even if you have a large digital footprint, as I do, the people who will be called upon to help you (or sort things out without you) may need some clues as to what’s where and how to find things. They may need physical records or a roadmap to make sense of it all.
Today's five-minute fix has two steps:
Choose a physical location to store your most important papers and vital records. For example, a locked filing cabinet, a fireproof home safe, or a safe deposit box (though I wouldn’t choose that option for myself. See why below...)
5-minute Fix: Choose a physical and a digital location to store your important personal papers.
Choose a digital location, too. It’s a good idea to also have a digital record in case you get separated from your home. There are several great options for cross-platform cloud storage solutions. All of them offer free storage up to a limit, after which you’ll pay a monthly fee. They are all accessible 24-7 from your friendly neighborhood web browser (and all but iCloud have mobile apps for both Android and iOS.) Choose one and consolidate your files there. (See this article for a list of important personal documents.)
If you’re not comfortable with cloud storage, or just want a local backup, here’s a nice compromise: a RED Key. It’s a secure, portable device to organize and store your essential life and legacy information. Just use the installed app to get your documents on the storage drive and you’ll be able to take your records anywhere you go.
Remember, none of these options are mutually exclusive - set up both physical and digital storage solutions!
Here are a few places I do not store important information:
- My Phone. My phone has a lock code but that doesn’t make it a great place to store documents or other critical information. I access all the most important information on my phone through digital services. For example, my contacts, photos, and passwords are all backed up and/or accessible from cloud services (not stored locally on my phone.) This way, the loss of my phone costs me money, but not my social life or personal history.
- My computer’s hard drive. I use too many devices and am on the move too much to cart my laptop everywhere I go. I like to be able to access my ‘stuff’ no matter where I am. Besides, computers are too fragile and vulnerable. Store your data in the cloud and you’ll have access to it even after your cat spills water on the keyboard.
- A safe-deposit box. I don’t know what’s happening in rural America but I can tell you that bank branches in my city flip brands, close, or move with startling regularity. A bank that seems convenient today might not be there tomorrow. And as you know, they aren’t open all day, every day. In other words, not a great place to put documents someone might need in a hurry.
So spend a few minutes — say, five — and choose a primary physical and digital location to store your important information.
About the Author
Karen Purze is the author of Life In Motion: A Guide for Gathering Life’s Vital Details, a workbook to help people get their affairs in order. She blogs about end-of-life and emergency planning at lifeinmotionguide.com.