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If you’re married to paper investment statements, it’s divorce time

Whether it’s out of dread or complacency, a lot of investors aren’t reading their account statements.

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There's the eco-argument for choosing electronic statements from your investment firm over paper, and then there's cold, hard practicality.

No matter what firm you deal with, electronic statements offer a more organized, secure way to store monthly or quarterly statements, trade confirmation slips and tax documents. Suggestion: Pick one of your investment accounts to test electronic documents delivery. Once you try it, you'll never go back.

Adoption of electronic documents by Canadians is happening at a slow rate. The financial technology company InvestorCOM says one of its mutual industry clients, a Top Five player, has an e-adoption rate of less than 4 per cent. Two insurance clients also report adoption rates below 5 per cent.

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There is something gratifying about holding a paper document about your financial affairs. But the logistics of paper are awful. If you file everything, you run the risk of not being able to find what you need. Years later, you'll have to spend hours with a shredder or a fireplace to get rid of what you no longer need. And let's not dismiss the possibility that an important document gets accidentally tossed into the recycling bin.

Investment firms typically archive documents for seven years on their client websites, which are password protected. The documents will ideally be searchable by account, date or tax year. You can view your documents and, if necessary, print them at any time. Just think of all the trees you'll save over the years by using e-documents.

If you're an online brokerage client, getting your statements and trade confirmations electronically may also save you money. Some firms charge a $2 fee to mail out paper statements and trade confirmations.

InvestCOM urges investors to ask their advisers and financial companies for e-documents. Let your firm know there's demand for this service. Other reasons why firms don't include e-delivery include their own in-house technological limitations and the lack of an e-delivery capability at some printing firms that handle investing documents.

Electronic documents are particularly suited to retirees who are looking ahead to downsizing or moving to a retirement home. Over the years, it's easily possible to fill boxes, binders and filing cabinets with investment documents. Stop accumulating more paper that you'll eventually have to shred or burn.

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About the Author
Personal Finance Columnist

Rob Carrick has been writing about personal finance, business and economics for close to 20 years. He joined The Globe and Mail in late 1996 as an investment reporter and has been personal finance columnist since November 1998.Rob's personal finance columns appear in The Globe on Tuesday and Thursday, and his Portfolio Strategy column for investors appears on Saturday. More

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