It’s almost April 15, which means that if you haven’t done so already, you are probably going through a lot of financial paperwork you’ve accumulated over the past year.
Receipts, credit card, bank & loan statements, and tax returns are just some of the financial documents that most people have in their homes – often overstuffed in file cabinets or piled up in a corner. It is not uncommon for people to become overwhelmed by financial documents; they may be afraid to discard them for fear of what will happen should they need them later.
If you are unsure of how to manage your financial documents and other important paperwork, here are some tips on what you can discard and how to store the documents you should keep.
What you can discard:
These financial documents should be shredded:
- ATM and bank receipts (after reconciling with monthly statement)
- Credit card bills unless there is something you need to include on your taxes like a charitable donation or there is a charge for a warranty. In the case of a warranty charge, attach the bill to the warranty.
- Paid bills
- Expired credit cards
What you should keep and for how long:
- Pay stubs and bank statements – 1 year since you may need them for tax purposes
- Medical bills and records – 1 year or longer in case of disputes
- Tax records and receipts – 7 years
- Warranty receipts and documents – Keep as long as you own the item
- Home purchase, sale, or improvement documents – 6 years after you sell
Keep the most recent version of the following documents:
- Insurance policy statements
- Social Security statements
- Retirement plan statements
- Birth and death certificates
- Social security cards
- ID cards and passports
- Marriage license
- Business license
- Life insurance policies
- Wills, living wills, and powers of attorney
- Pension plan documents
- Vehicle loan documents and titles
- House deeds and mortgage documents
How to Store Financial Documents
It is important to keep financial documents and legal paperwork safe and secure since they contain sensitive information. In the wrong hands, this information could put you at risk for identify theft or fraud so you want to make sure the documents are protected.
If you are storing paper documents at home, file them in a fireproof/waterproof file cabinet or safe. Documents that you need to refer to frequently should be kept at home. These may include bank statements, warranties, and bill statements.
For extra security you can store your most important and hard-to-replace documents in an insured bank safety deposit box. This might be an option for passports, birth certificates or a house deed. One issue to consider when choosing this storage method is that the safety deposit box will only be accessible during bank hours. In an emergency, this may prove to be a problem. You can keep copies of the documents at home for reference, but obtaining the originals will have to be done when the bank is open.
Storing your documents digitally is a good way to keep them organized and secure. Scan your documents and then store them on a hard drive, USB flash drive, or cloud service. You can also use a web-based professional storing service for storing, backing up, and organizing documents. Storage services charge a fee per month or per year.
Keeping your documents well organized can help you find them easily when you need them. A little work now can mean a lot less stress and anxiety later.