Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How long should I keep it?

I am often asked by clients how long they should keep various types of paper. These are general guidelines that we use when working with people. But remember it is always important to check with your accountant or tax advisor about your individual situation before shredding any documents.
  • Auto Records- keep these as long as you own the vehicle.
  • Appointment books- some people like to keep these as a type of journal, I keep them for a few years as back-up for mileage purposes. Keep them up to ten years for this type of reason.
  • ATM slips- Keep them six years for tax related purchases. Store them with your bank statements.
  • Credit Card statements- six years for tax related purchases (such as owning your own business) Otherwise keep until you receive the interest statement issued with by the company annually. Then you can shred them.
  • Dividend Payment Records- Until you receive your annual statement
  • Health Records- permanently
  • Home Improvements- as long as you own the home. Store these with your tax records
  • Household inventory and appraisal- As long as they are current. Update them annually (we will talk more about this next week when we talk about organizing for a transition).
  • Insurance policies- (auto, homeowner’s, liability) through the statute of limitations. (disability, medical, life, personal property, umbrella) keep for the life of the policy.
  • Investment purchase records- As long as you own the investments.
  • Investment sales records- six years for tax purposes.
  • Mortgage or loan discharge- as long as you own the home or six years after the discharge.
  • Pay Stubs- until they are verified by your W-2 statement.
  • Property bill of purchase- as long as you own the property.
  • Receipts- as long as they are current, or as determined by your accountant.
  • Safe- deposit box key and inventory- as long as they are current.
  • Tax records- current year plus six years prior (can be filed away in a bankers box)
  • Utility bills, etc.- Until they are paid (your cancelled check is proof you paid and the company keeps records as well).
  • Vital Records and documents- birth, marriage, divorce, death certificates: permanently.
  • Wills, trusts, estate plans- permanently.
Other tips to keep in mind when dealing with paper:
  • Papers should be filed so that you can access or retrieve them in less than a minute.
  • Some people are convinced they have a good system for filing but then wonder why there are papers on the coffee table, end tables, etc. It is because you do not have an adequate filing system. An adequate filing system works!
  • Filing cabinets or portable file baskets/containers should be stored within reach of where you deal with paper. File cabinets in the basement are of no help to you if you open your mail and pay your bills upstairs.
  • Two important questions to ask when handling paper- What is this?, Why am I saving it?
  • Avoid keeping paper for sentimental reasons, keep it only for necessity. This will drastically reduce the amount of paper in your home.
Dealing with paper clutter is not only about appearances and organization. It is also about safety. The more paper you have lying around your home or apartment is the more “kindling” a fire has if one were to develop in your home. Consider that as motivation to deal with the paper clutter in your home. Happy Organizing!


Posted by Melissa of Multitasking Mama

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