Money tactics for new college graduates: Winning the paper chase
Monday, 3 August 2020
The world may be more digital now than when your parents started out or even when you began your studies a few years ago. However, keeping up with “paperwork" remains an essential life skill that can help you access opportunities to achieve your goals, speciﬁcally as it pertains to pursuing higher education and getting a job. It is also a key part of ensuring smooth sailing as you move on in life, speciﬁcally as it relates to maintaining your health, obtaining housing, using ﬁnancial tools, traveling and more.
Show them who you are
Your campus ID card got you into the library and the cafeteria, but it won't get you very far after graduation. Employers and other organizations typically ask for at least two pieces of government-issued identiﬁcation—at least one with a photo. Eligible forms of ID typically include:
- Birth certiﬁcate: This oﬃcial document serves as proof of age, identity and citizenship status and does not expire. Birth certiﬁcates may also be used as evidence of a legal connection to your parents, helpful in many instances, including claiming inheritance or death beneﬁts. If you need an oﬃcial copy of your birth certiﬁcate, contact the vital records oﬃce in the state where you were born.
- Photo ID: A state-issued driver's license or non-driver's identiﬁcation card should be carried with you every day to prove your identity, age, and in some cases your residence. Reach out to the Department of Motor Vehicles where you currently reside for information on an application.
- Social Security card: Remembering the number should be suﬃcient for routine needs, such as ﬁlling out employment forms. It is still a good idea to keep a physical copy of the card. You can order a new or replacement card through the Social Security Administration website.
- Passport: Helpful for traveling outside the country, passports can also prove your age, identity and citizenship. Unlike birth certiﬁcates, they do expire. Check out the U.S. Department of State's website for instructions on obtaining a new or renewed passport.
- Voter registration card: This card typically includes your name and home address (along with the address of the polling station where you'll vote). To apply, contact your state's board of elections.
Tracking your ﬁnancial life
Consider keeping bank and ﬁnancial statements, along with tax-related receipts accessible for at least three years. Store monthly statements for checking and savings accounts, credit cards and loans securely, and check them regularly for errors or fraud. Report any issues right away to the ﬁnancial institution.
Dorm paperwork, leases, rent receipts, ﬁnal utility bills as well as photos from your move-in and move-out inspection can be useful a few years after you vacate the premises. If you receive any notices claiming you still owe money, you can reference your ﬁles to verify the details. Saved documents can also be helpful in documenting your rent history for new apartment applications.
Other ﬁnancial documents to store:
- Tax returns (these should be stored for three to seven years; check the IRS website and consult with your tax advisor for details)
- Car title and registration and any relevant loan documents
- 401(k) and other investment account statements
- Insurance policies and records of premium payments
Building your professional history
As you build your work history, you may begin to accumulate employment documents that could become reference material for important life and ﬁnancial decisions. While your employer may maintain these ﬁles for their records, make and store your own copies of the following:
- Oﬀer letters and salary statements
- Beneﬁts information
- Company policies and HR compliance handbooks
- Payroll related forms, i.e., I-9, W4 forms and direct deposit authorizations
- Signed contracts, i.e., a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)—a legal agreement asking you to maintain the conﬁdentiality of your work with the company even after you no longer work there
- Awards, commendations, professional certiﬁcations, licenses or continuing education coursework
- Receipts for work-related travel or purchases (you may get reimbursed by your employer, or you may be eligible to claim these expenses as a tax deduction; check with your tax preparer for details)
It's a good idea to keep a copy of your medical records—or at least the basic details—about your allergies, prior illnesses and surgeries, vaccines, etc. This data can help you more accurately ﬁll out forms for travel, employment, insurance, etc. when necessary.
Maintain ﬁles of other health-related documentation, too:
- Copies of your health insurance card and policy information
- Health forms you are asked to sign, such as a HIPAA form or medical proxy
- Physician's letters regarding a disability, workplace injury or military injury
- Any proof of disability status or qualiﬁcation for any government beneﬁts or assistance programs
Safe and secure
Consider storing physical documents, especially oﬃcial government-issued papers, in a personal (ideally ﬁreproof) safe or bank safe deposit box. Make digital copies of all originals, and don't forget to back these up regularly.
Remember, if you feel overwhelmed, your ﬁles are a work in progress. Create a reminder system, such as a note on a digital calendar, for any documents that will expire or need to be updated, downloaded, etc. Set aside a couple of hours each month to review and track your documents.
The content provided is for informational purposes only. Neither BBVA USA, nor any of its affiliates, is providing legal, tax, or investment advice. You should consult your legal, tax, or financial consultant about your personal situation. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BBVA USA or any of its affiliates.
Links to third party sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement. BBVA USA does not provide, is not responsible for, and does not guarantee the products, services or overall content available at third party sites. These sites may not have the same privacy, security or accessibility standards.
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