Financial Literacy Month – Tip #4 Financial Documents: What to Keep & What to Shred

Financial clutter can create roadblocks on your path which can lead to costly late fees if payments are missed, exposure to identity theft if personal information is not filed away and missed savings opportunities when filing taxes. Below is a list of what to keep, how long to keep it, and what to shred:

  • Keep sales receipts until the product warranty expires or until the return/exchange period expires. (If you need sales receipts for tax purposes, keep them for three years). 
  • Keep ATM printouts for one month, or until you balance your checkbook. Then they may be thrown away. 
  • Keep paycheck stubs until you have compared them to your W2s and annual social security statement (usually one year). 
  • Keep paid utility bills for one year unless you’re using them for tax purposes (deductions for a home office, etc.). In that case you need to keep them for three years. 
  • Keep cancelled checks for one year unless you’re using them for tax purposes. In that case you’ll need to keep them for three years. 
  • Keep credit card receipts for one year unless you’re using them for tax purposes. In that case you’ll need to keep them for three years. 
  • Keep bank statements for one year unless you’re using them for tax purposes. In that case you’ll need to keep them for three years. Keep quarterly investment statements until you receive your annual statement (usually one year). 
  • Keep income tax returns for at least three years (six if you have multiple sources of income). 
  • Keep paid medical bills and cancelled insurance policies for three years. 
  • Keep records of selling a house for three years as documentation for Capital Gains Tax. 
  • Keep records of selling stock for three years as documentation for Capital Gains Tax. Keep annual investment statements for three years after you sell your investment. 
  • Keep records of satisfied loans for seven years. 
  • Keep contracts as long as they remain active. 
  • Keep insurance documents as long as they remain active. 
  • Keep stock certificates as long as they remain active. 
  • Keep property records as long as they remain active. 
  • Keep stock records as long as they remain active. 
  • Keep records of pension and retirement plans as long as they remain active. 
  • Keep marriage licenses forever. 
  • Keep birth certificates forever. 
  • Keep wills forever. 
  • Keep adoption papers forever. 
  • Keep death certificates forever. 
  • Keep records of paid mortgages forever. 

Source: Moneymanagement.org

Separate the documents into two piles, keep and shred. Create folders for the “”keep” documents and file away. If you do not have a cross shredder, I highly recommend purchasing one. Take the time to shred documents that are no longer needed. Shredding personal documents not only clears financial clutter it also protects you from costly identity theft. 

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