Monday, July 12, 2010

Discoveries in the filing cabinet

This weekend, out of nowhere, along came the impulse to clean out my filing cabinets. I've barely touched them since before my move from Oregon in 2006 - for a while I shoved new stuff in the TO FILE file, but for the last year or so I've just piled papers on top of the cabinet. Ugh. So when that impulse drifted by, I grabbed it and ran with it!

Three bags of recycling later, I learned a few things.

1) The stock market has been even more horrific than I realized. Over the course of ten years, one group of retirement accounts went haywire. From the high balance in 2000, it was down 44% by 2003, then went up 200% by 2007, then back down 49% in 2009, and when I rolled over the account in 2010 it was back up 159%. What those numbers don't show is that from starting to finishing balance, it was down 30%. Tragic. Good thing I believe in saving aggressively for retirement!

2) I was reminded that I hate Charles Schwab. In 1999-2001 I had investment accounts there. I bought some stocks, realized I didn't know what I was doing, sold them in May 2000 to pay off my credit card debt (which was, in retrospect, excellent timing as the market tanked after that). I got laid off, I got busy, I got lazy - I stopped opening their mail for a while. Well, over three quarters they charged me a total of $121.66 in quarterly fees, because my account was under $300. Talk about slimy and short-sighted. I take full blame for not reading my mail and the statements, but I have fantasies of them begging for my money someday, so I can scornfully spurn them. At any rate, I tell anyone who cares not to invest with Charles Schwab. That behavior MAY be a thing of the past, but if a company will be so greedy once, who's to say they won't be again?

3) I'm so grateful for this day of electronic statements. I don't get anything like the flood of mail I used to! I might even get rid of one of my filing cabinets, as I think the other one is mostly empty - I didn't have the heart to look, though.


  1. If you're done with that file-cabinet-cleaning impulse, can you send it this way? I have almost identical filing habits to what you described.

  2. We totally do the same thing with the filing cabinet. We sort it every year right before doing taxes.

  3. It kind of feels nice to do a bit of cleaning there. Looking through the contents of a file cabinet can often lead to some reading and reflection. Of course, it's nice to re-organize the stuff that are kept in the cabinet.