Schwab MoneyWise ®

Organizing Your Financial Life

Prepare now to make life easier down the road.

Our Two Cents

Just as items get lost in a messy room, a disorganized financial life makes it easy to lose track of where your money goes. Creating a system that makes sense can help ensure your money is doing what it should.

Managing your finances can feel like putting together a complicated puzzle, but it's easier than you think. Just take the time to set up the right tools and get organized, and the pieces will start falling into place.

Open the right accounts

Banks and credit unions are where you can open up basic checking and savings accounts to manage day to day expenses and short term savings.

Checking accounts are used to store money in the short term until it is needed—like for gas or groceries—or to pay bills. You can easily deposit or withdraw money through checks and/or debit cards.

Savings accounts are used to set money aside for use in the future—like for an emergency or a vacation—and allow the money to collect interest. While you can withdraw money at any time from a savings account, unlike checking accounts, there are limits on how often you can withdraw money.

Take the time to comparison shop different financial institutions and find services and features that are right for you.

Electronic transfers like directly depositing your paycheck and linking your savings and checking accounts can help you better manage your finances and may make it easier for you to save.

What to look for:

  • A checking account that pays interest
  • No or low minimum balance requirements
  • Unlimited free checking
  • Free ATM withdrawals
  • Good customer service

What to avoid:

  • Monthly account servicing fees
  • High fees for insufficient funds
  • High account minimums

Set up a secure system

Keeping all financial details in one centralized place and organized will help them make more sense. By creating a system now, you won’t have to think about it later. Be sure to secure and copy your important papers. Keep the originals in a water-tight container, fire safe, or a bank safe deposit box. If you keep your documents at home, be sure they are safe, but that you can grab them in a hurry in case of an emergency. You can also scan and store important documents and statements electronically, then put them on a flash drive or store the information at a secure online storage website.

Here is an example of what to group together:

Bank accounts

  • Checking account statements
  • Savings account statements

Insurance policies

  • Car
  • Disability
  • Health
  • Homeowner's/renter's
  • Life


  • Car loan statements and paperwork
  • College loan statements and communications
  • Credit card statements
  • Personal loan statements


  • Birth certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Marriage certificate
  • Passport
  • Prenuptial agreement


  • Final settlement statement (needed when you sell)
  • Home improvement receipts
  • Lease (if you rent)
  • Mortgage payment receipts
  • Rent payment receipts or canceled checks
  • Security deposit receipt
  • Title or deed to your home (if you own)


  • Social Security statements/cards
  • Retirement account statements (e.g., 401(k), IRA)


  • Current year's tax return
  • Tax returns from the past seven years, along with backup receipts for at least the last three years (longer if there are any unusual circumstances)


  • Statements for your children's accounts
  • Taxable brokerage accounts (keep annual statements and trade confirmations)

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal, or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner, or investment manager.

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