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Paperwork! Reading Material: The Priority Stuff

Some things are intrinsically more important than others. Higher priority reading material like the handouts from work, school, or doctors’ offices are treated differently than magazines and catalogs. Set aside an hour every week to focus on higher priority reading. Keep this material in a folder or a basket near your workspace and/or a reading area in your home before adding to your filing.

Handouts merit the same attention as action items in your paper management system, and they typically have information on more than one topic -- unlike a letter or memo. As you read through these handouts, you’ll want to transfer dates to your calendar and create reminders for returning correspondence. If you need to shop, gather, ship, or deliver based on what you read, get those activities noted on your calendar or to do list.

Once you’ve read through the handout and you’ve taken necessary action, you’ll file what you need to keep as a resource for later. Be prepared to purge your archive of handouts quarterly or yearly. If you experience a transition that affects what you keep, a change in insurance coverage, for example, you may be able to purge archives as you add new folders.

Let’s use a couple of examples from common experience to look at this more closely.

Health insurance companies send volumes of information as the new year rolls around and the biggest policy changes are enacted. You might receive this new information in person or through the mail, and it often contains plan changes, formulary lists, provider changes, and on and on and on. One needs to read through enough to see if any changes affect you or your family immediately and directly. Important medications may now require preauthorization – you want to be on top of those changes so there is no gap in coverage. Utilize your online medical chart sites or apps and update your records with your doctors’ office.

If you’re lucky enough to have expanded job benefits like profit sharing, matching 401K funding, short- or long-term disability insurance, vision or dental insurance, etc., you will often receive important information about changes to these benefits.

Financial planners and investment brokers are another source of more complex reading material. Open that correspondence and check for things that impact you directly. Be sure to call and ask for clarity if you don’t understand something. Unless you are really invested in knowing the ends and outs, you can probably throw away general documents that don’t apply directly to your accounts. Ask your financial planner or broker if you need to keep materials if you aren’t sure.

Doctor visits for aging parents, children, and our own medical treatments yield a handful of paperwork every time we visit. If you need to keep documents to create a medical history timeline then keep papers that will support that goal. Future explanation of benefits that will be mailed later can be matched with documents that verify dates and reasons for visits. I recommend keeping your saved medical documents for three years as supporting documents with your tax returns. Start a new folder for the current year – and If you don’t need them just shred them.

Next week . . . memorabilia!

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