Cyber Security Part Two: What to do with Important Documents
Written by Joel Bengds
As a follow up to the security blog we sent out in November, I would like to give the HSC Wealth Advisors response to a few recent client questions and comments. We appreciate feedback on our blogs and if there is a particular topic you would like us to write about please let us know.
Question 1: Why do we take a photograph of our clients?
We started this practice of taking photographs over 15 years ago. The reason being was to familiarize the staff with the clients whether we were working on an estate plan, portfolio or other financial planning item – these are real people and family relationships that we are working for. A side benefit was to constantly put a face with a name and help existing and new staff learn who are clients are. Move forward to 2017 the same reasons exist and others. We have wonderful client relationship management software that is unique to the Financial Planning industry. This software resides on all of our computers and each client and contact has their own record within the system. On the first screen we have all of the contact information and a place for a photo. With the growth in our firm you do not interact with every staff member and by having photographs of our clients other staff members can view who they are working for when completing tasks for clients. You have just one lead advisor but throughout the year your situation is touched by almost every employee at HSC. We also like photographs for security reasons so when granting admittance into the building we have verification on who is coming in. So if you live out of town we would enjoy an updated photograph from time to time because it is nice to put a face with a name.
Question 2: Where should I keep estate documents?
Estate planning documents such as Wills, Power of Attorney, Advance Medical Directives, Trusts and others are very important and should be protected and preserved. At the very least we recommend you store your documents in a fire proof and flood proof safe to keep in your home. If you do elect to go this route don’t forget to notify other family members or friends where the safe is and how to open the safe. Our best recommendation would be to store them in a safe deposit box at a local bank and again you need to make sure you have others on the signature card who can access the documents if something happens to you.
Question 3: What does HSC recommend we do with all of our physical statements and paperwork?
There is no shortage of paperwork arriving in your mailbox from your investment custodians, HSC, insurance agents, tax preparer and other professional service firms. Our recommendation is that you review everything that comes to you for accuracy. After that most statements are stored online or can be reproduced if there is a need to gain access to them again. We recommend that everything with personal information on it is shredded and destroyed. If you live locally you can always drop of documents at our office and we will have them shredded for you. Often times banks or other businesses will provide shredding services or have a client appreciation day and shred all of your documents for you. Possibly the easiest thing to do would be to buy a good shredder and shred yourself.
· Statements – Keep a copy of current statements from your insurance company and shred the older ones. For monthly or quarterly statements you can shred them once you receive an annual statement. If you have investment statements that have cost basis information you certainly need to keep these or scan them and keep electronic backups. You will need these when you sell an investment for the custodian may not have the cost basis on file.
· Credit card receipts and statements – Keep receipts until your monthly statement arrives. Once you verify receipts with your statement shred the receipts unless you are disputing a charge or need to return the item to the store. If statements contain tax-related items keep them with your tax return.
· Pay Stubs – Keep all pay stubs until you receive your W-2. If everything is verified, shred your stubs.
· Tax Returns – We recommend you keep three years of tax returns easily accessible. After three years store the documents electronically or in a longer storage container in your attic or basement. After seven years, shred that last year.
· Large Purchase Receipts – Keep your receipts of major purchase of computers, furnishings, automobiles and home renovations and appliances. If you ever need to make an insurance or warranty claim you will have a copy. Also, it is good to keep records of home modifications to add to the cost basis of your home.
· Medical Receipts – If you have a Health Savings Accounts and you did not get reimbursed or take a tax dedution for your medical expense keep your receipt indefinitely.
Question 4: How long should I keep tax documentation and returns?
It is recommend you keep 7 years of tax documents and returns.
Question 5: Is there a way to send documents securely through email?
There are many email add ins that will help you with sharing information through email securely. We currently use a Citrix product called Sharefile that we can securely send documents through email and request documents that are uploaded through a secure link. If you ever need to send us something through email you can call and request that we email you the secure link. We are not technology gurus though so we recommend you seek a solution from an IT professional. The one thing we urge is that you do not open up documents that are not from a verified source and also that you do not send any personal information or documents outside of a secure medium.
Again, these are just a few common questions that we are asked and hope you find the answers helpful.