When I discuss with my clients their interest in going paperless, I ask them certain questions to determine their readiness to do so. We know it is a good for the environment and for the companies who benefit by lessening their printing and mailing costs; however going paperless means change in the status quo. It means considering a new way to track the actions such documents signify. Those used to having paper in hand may find the adjustment to digital unsettling. Particularly for those who suffer from the “out of sight out of mind” phenomenon.
Since the process of getting organized can involve many adjustments; such as learning a new filing system, trying on new routines, and following through on tasks (basically learning how to do the right thing at the right time), it can be too great of a change to let go of paper at the same time.
When going paperless the devil is in the details. For example, a paperless system usually involves receiving an email saying, “your invoice is ready” or “your statement is available for download”. So, what do you do then? Some clients print out the email! This obviously defeats the purpose. Some get distracted from what they were doing and feel compelled to pay the bill right away. Some think they will get back to it, but then forget. So the detail is planning how to track those emails and when to respond…another new system and routine to learn.
For example, imagine you decide you will pay your bills once a month on a specific day. That means searching your email for all the invoices (unless you had the forethought to create a folder for such emails). The next action is to go to an online bill pay system – either your bank or direct to the company’s website. That may seem easy for many, but for those who struggle with focus, attention and sequencing, this task may feel just too detailed and daunting. Plus there is a password to remember as well.
Besides bills, another common place to go paperless is with investment statements and all the information the company is required by law to provide you; for example, the prospectus that only a few have enough knowledge to read and understand. So, I suggest at least log into your investment company’s website and select “go paperless” with all except the statements. If you feel ready to take on the job of downloading the statements, so you have them in your own computer files, then go paperless all the way. If you think you are not yet likely to do this, continue getting the paper statements and transaction confirmations, until you are.
Lastly, did you notice that you are not receiving yearly retirement Social Security statements anymore? That is because Social Security is “going green”. You can still request a paper copy, but you can also create an account at www.ssa.gov and have online access to your estimated retirement benefits at any time.
So instead of feeling that you should go paperless out of guilt... do so when you feel ready to make the mental shift, do it gradually and figure out how best to track the information without having the existence of paper to rely on.