Robots are taking over. Yes, technology has evolved to such a point that digital consistently beats physical.
The ‘high-tech’ way of doing things has, up until recently, been the novelty way of getting things done. Sure, everyone found technology intriguing but it was rarely the default way of doing things. But that is not true today.
Technology has advanced so much recently that digital replacements beat physical alternatives consistently. It’s to the point where if a person has the option to have a robot do a small task (such as document handling) or a human, the obvious choice is the robot. Even autonomous vehicles are proving to be safer than humans.
With this said, no longer is it true that someone should, “Print a copy just in case.” Printing documents should be done as seldom as possible. Sorry, companies that sell printers.
But saying something should be done a certain way is useless information by itself. After all, knowledge without application is akin to knowing nothing at all. Read on to see why exactly all important financial documents should be digital.
The Dangers of Physical Documents and Why Your Documents should be Digital
Let’s say you go ahead and print a document. At this point, bad things may begin to happen. First, you used resources in order to print the document. You’ve used money, paper, toner, time, emitted noise pollution into the office and caused wear and tear costs on the printer (which printers always seem to have short life-spans) and of course these things are the antithesis of going green.
After it’s printed, the document begins to deteriorate. Though the negative impacts of this are minimal, it’ll start to show creases, retain hand oils and lotion and begin to lose its professional appearance. It makes the overall project appear neglected.
And what if it needs edited? True, liquid paper can be used but not even the best brand of liquid paper actually looks very professional. Plus, what if multiple people need to make edits to the document after it’s been printed? Do you pass it around the office one by one and then having to ask for it back in order to make sure the revisions are suitable to you?
Passing around papers may also lead to confidentiality issues. Yes, those who’ve worked in the industry long enough can get numb to the term ‘confidentiality’ but it’s extremely important. If one person sees a paper on your desk that they shouldn’t have seen, you will have violated your ethics and your clients well-being. Is that a risk you really want to take? Are you always able to watch your papers closely and lock your filing cabinets when away from your desk? For me, it’s a lot easier to hit ‘Win + L’ as I walk away from my machine. Always do what you can to protect confidentiality whether dealing with papers at work or home.
Physical documents also carry the danger going out of date without your knowledge. If the document was printed and then later revised digitally, your physical document will remain unchanged. This can be extremely dangerous in many situations. You or a financial advisor may sign an outdated document, making it null and void and still leaving you exposed to the pre-signature risks.
Physical documents can also fall into the wrong hands. It could be as easy as dropping a signed contract in the hallway and having someone else use it to gather confidential information such as social security numbers.
Simply forgetting the paper(s) can be an issue. A physical document can only be in one place at any given time. If you drive to your financial advisor’s firm and forget the paper at home, that’s it. That’s where the paper is at. There’s no emailing it to your financial advisor from your phone.
However, let’s not dwell on the past. Here are the positive reasons for keeping your financial documents digital…
The Benefits of Keeping All Financial Documents Digital
Cloud computing. If you’re thinking that keeping documents in digital format is just as risky as using paper, you must not know about cloud computing. ‘The cloud’ as it’s often referred to is often misunderstood even for those who use the technology. Allow me to demystify cloud computing for you.
There’s not just one cloud ran by one company – such as Apple. There are hundreds of companies using different cloud platforms. Telling someone you put a document in the cloud doesn’t really tell them anything.
When a file is stored on your computer, your computer is where it lives. When you upload a file to the cloud, it lives on many, many forms of computers called servers. These servers are typically placed all over the globe. This way, if a hurricane takes out the server in Florida and a volcano takes out another in Montana – your data is still safe. It will remain on the surviving servers and likely the destroyed servers will be automatically replaced with other servers. So unless the entire planet gets destroyed, your financial documents will be safe.
Digital documents also require few resources: no printer, no paper, no toner, etc. It’s a very quiet, green, low cost, minimalistic way of quickly doing business. Even Xerox tells its customers that printing can be wasteful.
When the document needs revised or signed, that too is easy. The revising is simple since documents can transition from a word processor to a PDF rather easily nowadays. Documents can be passed around easily (yet securely) as well. Word processors such as Google Docs allows you to share documents with other individuals using their name or email address. You can change permissions at any time in case you only want them to view the document, be unable to save the document, etc. Signing is finally simple as well. What most software does is allow you to sign a white sheet of paper, take a picture of it with your phone and then use that image as a verified signature. Or you can sign using your mouse if you don’t mind a somewhat shaky signature.
Digital documents are also very secure. They can be password protected and available for your eyes only. You can have a password to your computer, a password to your word processor and a password to each specific document. Talk about protection.
Digital documents can also be securely accessed from many devices at any time. Auto proof of insurance, for instance, never needs to be forgotten on the kitchen counter. Because once you need to renew, the company will send your proof of insurance electronically and as long as you have your phone, your car will be ready for the road (digital documentation laws still vary from state to state so check yours before tossing out your paper proof of insurance).
Some may argue that paper is still the way to go. But all documents should be digital. For your safety and for others, if for no other reason.Also, I think it’s prudent to point out that you’re reading this on a computer screen. Pretty soon, paper will only be found in novelty stores.
I’m a personal finance freelance writer and webmaster. I welcome you to visit me at www.thefrugalpreneur.com