How not to lose track of your documents

Choose the traditional way of maintaining individual files or go digital with technology, according to comfort

Last week, Renjith Ramachandran, 27, a gym trainer in Mumbai, wanted to deposit 75,000 in his bank account. “My friend had borrowed money from me last year and returned it in cash. Since I didn’t need the cash, I decided to deposit it in my account," Ramachandran said. As a routine process, the bank asked him to show his permanent account number (PAN) card since the amount was above 50,000. Ramachandran didn’t have his PAN handy. “I didn’t know that I would have to show my PAN. I deposited 50,000 and carried the remaining cash with me," he said. This is a small example of the inconvenience that can be caused due to lack of a single document.

In our lives, we often need many such documents to prove our existence and ownership, and documentation process can be tedious. Mint Money spoke to financial planners and financial services experts to understand how they manage their documents. Here is what we found:

Heap of documents

Over time, the number of documents we accumulate increases and so does the responsibility to sort and save them. The initial year of our lives begin with school and college certificates and degrees. Next, we have documents that prove identity. This includes Aadhaar, passport, voter’s identity card, driving licence and PAN.

The next set of documents come in when you start earning. These include your salary slips and reimbursement slips. Say, you have changed four jobs in eight years. The job related documents will include appointment letters of all companies, resignation letters of the companies you left, as well as promotion and compensation letters.

Once you start saving and investing, your financial documents will also start building up. To begin with, your banking relationship will come with monthly savings account details, interest accumulation, credit cards, deposits and loans.

You will have sets of documents related to your insurance policy, deposits, mutual funds, shares, gold and property once you start building your investment portfolio.

Since you also have to pay tax, you will have another set of documents for tax purposes such as Form 16, and investment documents for tax breaks. In a household, you also have a set of utility bills to take care, including electricity, water, gas, phone and cable.

Another set of papers come with every purchase that has a warranty or guarantee attached to it such as white goods like air conditioner, television, microwave and mobile phone. These documents are needed at time of servicing or if the gadget needs repair or replacement.

Getting access to all these documents at the right time can be taxing if your paperwork is not in order. So how do you put it in order?

What do the experts do?

It is a mix of excel spread sheet, external hard drive and physical files for planners. Suresh Sadagopan, a Mumbai-based financial planner, uses excel spread sheets to keep a track of all his paperwork and for some of his clients too. “Different clients have different record-keeping methods. Some use online document management services and some go with the spreadsheet method. I personally make different files for different sets of documents. And every document detail is maintained in a spreadsheet separately. This has been the process for a long time," he said.

Some planners use technology to do the job for them. Nisreen Mamaji, certified financial planner, and founder, Moneyworks Financial Advisors, says she works with excel sheets, which she has categorised into different subheads. “I have a data collection excel sheet, which is categorised into mutual funds, shares and others. I do it using a software. I also keep a scanned copy of all my documents in a folder. This includes basic ID proofs such as PAN, Aadhaar and passport."

Srikanth Meenakshi, who co-founded mutual fund advisory portal, digitises all his documents. “I scan all my documents and maintain them in an external hard drive. The physical copies are kept safely too. I categorise my documents into three—identity proof, financial documents and non-financial documents. ID proofs include Aadhaar and PAN, financial documents include tax papers and investments and non-financial documents include birth certificates and education certificates. I still haven’t used cloud-based storage facility. However, my existing setup is convenient." Srikanth said he has been practising this type of organisation structure for documents the past 12 years.

How technology helps

If you don’t like to use the traditional way of building folders and stacking all the physical papers, you can use technology to do it for you. “When you deal with multiple financial products, which are regulated by different regulators, the documentation process is going to be different. Documentation is usually the most cumbersome for getting on board any financial service. So, if you have it consolidated online, transactions are easier to do," said Rahul Parikh, head, Aditya Birla Money MyUniverse.

Banks, other companies and even the government offer products where you can upload all your documents at one place.

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and IT, offers DigiLocker where you can save important documents electronically. Linked to your Aadhaar number, DigiLocker has data storage space of up to 10MB.

Once you upload documents in the electronic format, you will be able to share the e-documents online with any registered agency or department. To sign up for DigiLocker, you need to have an Aadhaar number and a mobile phone number registered with Aadhaar. The information will be put on cloud and can be easily accessed.

Some banks also offer online document storage facility for their customers. For instance, ICICI Bank Ltd offers e-lockers where you can save documents in PDF and JPG formats. It provides storage facility of up to 1GB per user with no limit on the number of documents that can be uploaded. However, each document cannot exceed 10MB, according to the bank website.

Mint Money take

If you prefer to retain all the physical documents, then buy folders and sort them according to the product or purpose. Have one each for banking, investment, insurance, utility bills, cards, property and others. You can start with the original document and then add those that come later. Those who are tech savvy and comfortable using cloud, can try other options available. Else, you can simply maintain hard copies as well as soft copies.