Paper is widely considered one of the most important inventions of all time. It’s also one of the most seductive. Its power to enslave is evidenced by the fact that most of us are reluctant to throw it out. In fact, paper is the number one item hoarded. From pay stubs to grocery receipts, the amount of it filed and kept by nearly everyone boarders on obsessive. While the love affair between man and paper is over three thousand years old, the age of the computer may very well be bringing it to an end; albeit an agonizingly slow one.

An industry survey recently revealed that more banks and financial institutions are going paperless. Additionally, the advances in technology are making it easier to maintain records by means of external hard-drives, cloud storage and other paperless methods of record keeping and back-up. Still, according to the same report, the majority of customers (55% at last count) prefer to receive their statements on paper. As the song says, “breaking up is hard to do”.

Of course, it’s just a matter of time before paper will no longer be the way to keep track of our lives and while there’s sure to be a shredder waiting for us all, the trick is knowing how to keep what we need and do so with the certainty it will be there when we need it.

It’s fairly obvious that financial statements and IRS back-ups are the most critical items to store, especially as the statutes of limitations can be as lengthy as seven years. If you store these items on your computer or a flash drive you will also need to store them elsewhere. The number one thing to remember in storing data is that all systems are prone to failure. And, since technology keeps morphing, it’s wise to use various kinds of backup.

Relying on your financial institution may be a solution as many of the big firms guarantee up to ten years backup on all customer statements. When shopping around for data storage be mindful that companies can go out of business. Also take a look at the company’s security statement and see how serious they are about protecting your information.

Most of us however will continue to keep our financial information close at hand on our personal computers and as such, it’s important to protect your info with a strong password. Don’t devise something so cryptic you need to write it down somewhere. Instead, think of protecting your password as you would the keys to your home.

The final word on secured data storage is destroying that which is no longer of importance and/or use. Shred, shred. shred. Please don’t just toss important info into the waste bin. Too often, identities and vital information can be unearthed in what you throw out.