Your Family Files (7) – Where to keep your documents and valuables

Having identified the 15 kinds of family files that you must keep, you might want to know where to keep them. What are your storage solutions?

There are a variety of choices depending on the items to be stored, your purpose and your budget. There is no one-size-fits all solution, so you must decide which ones are the best for you. You might need a combination of different storage solutions based on the kind of files to be stored.

Before customizing your storage solutions, let’s take a look at your options.

1. Safety deposit box in your bank

This is a metal box with a lock that is stored inside a bank vault. It is owned by the bank, and rented out to its clients.

If you rent one, the bank will give you a key to your box. You can choose to allow access only to you, or to you and a specific person in which case the box can be opened only when both of you are present.

Since the box is inside the bank, you can open it only during banking hours. This is a good storage solution for family files and items that you do not need often, as well as selected jewelry, heirloom pieces and similar items.

You should also decide if you want a safety deposit box near your office, or near your home.

Annual rental rates vary, depending on the size of the box. This can range from 2” x 5” x 12” up to 15” x 22” x 22”. The smallest one can be rented for around US$15 a year, while the largest one can go as high as US$300 a year.

Since the safety deposit box is not insured, you have to get a separate insurance coverage for it.

A good article on safety deposit boxes was written by William Lipovsky dated Oct 10, 2017 entitled Safe Deposit Box Cost: 17 Banks Listed (Including Sizes if Applicable). He gives the relevant details for these 18 banks:

  1. Bank of America
  2. BB&T Bank
  3. BMO Harris Bank
  4. Chase Bank
  5. Citibank
  6. Citizens Bank
  7. Fifth Third Bank
  8. HSBC Bank
  9. KeyBank
  10. M&T Bank
  11. PNC Bank
  12. Regions Bank
  13. Santander Bank
  14. SunTrust Bank
  15. TD Bank
  16. United Bank
  17. US Bank
  18. Wells Fargo

In the Philippines, safety deposit boxes are available in the following banks:

  1. BDO Unibank
  2. Bank of the Philippine Islands
  3. Robinson Bank
  4. East West Bank
  5. Metrobank

2. Fireproof safe at home

If you would like to keep some of your documents at home for easy access, your best option would be a fireproof personal safe.

Home safes come in different sizes, and a common size would be 1.2 to 1.3 cubic feet. This size could fit a 12” high stack of short bond paper, according to web article by Consumer Reports entitled “Choosing and using a home safe.”

There are several factors to consider in buying a safe. These are:

  1. Fire resistance – This has to do with the type of item stored in your home safe. The Consumer Reports article cited above says that for documents, the inside temperature of home safes should not exceed 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius). For CDs and DVDs, the maximum inside temperature should not be more than 125 degrees.
  2. Water resistance – This will protect your items against flood or water damage from fire hoses.
  3. Cost – You could buy home safes for as low as around US$50 to as high as US$1000.
  4. Where to put it – You might decide to put the safe in the master’s bedroom or basement, or a specially-built space in your home-office. You must study which of these is most secure based on the design of your home.
  5. Storage capacity – What are you going to put inside it? Will it be documents only or will you include heirloom pieces, firearms, CDs, or jewelry? Choose a safe that can adequately fit all the items you would like to store.

I suggest you read “TOP 10 THINGS WE RECOMMEND BEFORE BUYING A SAFE” by The Safe House, which advises readers to check out the following:

  • Size
  • Construction
  • Security rating
  • Use of a hidden safe, wall safe or floor safe
  • Fire rating
  • Fire resistance
  • Lock type

3. Filing cabinet at home

There are three types of filing cabinets: vertical, lateral and mobile.

Vertical filing cabinets are most common, with two to four drawers, requiring a small floor space. Lateral cabinets require more wall space, and some are even designed to look like wooden cabinets.

There are also mobile filing cabinets that are handy because you can easily move them around and make them fit under desks.

What do you consider when choosing a filing cabinet?

First, you have to think of how much floor space you would like to allot, and where in your house you would like to put it.

Second, how much documents are you going to put in it?

Third, if you decide to put it in your living room or some visible area of your house, how does it look together with your furniture?

In her web article “How to Choose a Filing Cabinet”, writer Nicole Campbell writes that in addition to vertical, lateral and mobile files, there are open shelf files for use in narrow areas, flat files for large flat items such as blueprints, and fireproof files for sensitive documents.

Take a look also at the locking mechanism for added security where it is needed.

4. Regular or secret cabinets at home

You may want to store your items in a regular cabinet at home but you must consider security – what kind of lock do you put, how sturdy the cabinet is, and what items you would like to put inside.

For your safety, do not store high-value items in regular cabinets at home.

Consider having secret cabinets built for your documents and items. The website instructables.com has projects on secret doors, drawers and compartments that could give you some ideas.

5. Digital storage (cloud, CD, USB drives, portable hard drives)

Digital storage is a good option for keeping copies of your important records and documents within easy reach and with very little space. These include cloud storage, portable hard drives, USB drives, and compact disks. Make sure to put in the necessary security features to keep the contents safe in case your digital storage device falls into the wrong hands.

Of course, hard copies of these documents must be stored elsewhere such as a safety deposit box for high value documents and items, and an offsite storage facility.

6. Offsite document storage

Consider this if you choose digital storage because you’ve got to keep your hard copies safe somewhere. Factors in choosing offsite records storage:

  • quality of storage facilities
  • types of storage facilities
  • safety features to insure against water damage
  • climate control – humidity and heating affect your documents
  • fire control system
  • records management system
  • cost
  • other services – scanning, shredding

In the next post, we will talk about how to organize your family files.

* This post is based on my free ebook, YOUR FAMILY FILES. This free ebook shows you how you can keep your most important personal and legal documents safe yet easy to find. It’s a good step for your peace of mind. Click here to get it now.

Posted in Family files.


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