Storing your important documents
When it comes to record keeping, do you feel like a packrat, storing years of bank statements in the back of your closet? Or maybe you don’t store enough, and find yourself wishing you’d kept those receipts during tax season. With so many documents to look after, you may feel confused on which ones to keep and for how long. Take the guesswork out of filing and organize your important records with these simple tips.
Store personal documents in a secure place, such as a fire-safe box at home or a safe deposit box at the bank. And remember, the following items should be kept indefinitely:
- Birth/death certificates
- Marriage certificates/divorce decrees
- Social Security cards
- Adoption and custody papers
- Citizen and naturalization papers
- Military documents
The following documents should be kept in either a safe deposit box or locked filing cabinet at home:
- Tax returns and supporting documents: Keep forever, in case one day you are audited.
- Credit card statements: Store for one month, unless needed for tax season; then keep for one year.
- Retirement savings statements: Keep monthly statements until year-end statement arrives. Keep year-end statement for at least six years.
- IRA contributions: Store permanently to prove you have paid taxes on this money.
- Stocks, bonds and security statements: Keep for six years after you sell them.
- Receipts: Store until your monthly statement arrives, or longer if item is of value or under warranty.
- Paycheck stubs: Keep one year, until you receive your W-2.
- Real estate records: Keep all records of purchase, remodeling and selling indefinitely.
- Medical records: Store for one year unless deducting for taxes, then keep for six years.
- W-2 forms: Keep until you start claiming Social Security. Organizing Tips
- With identity theft on the rise, you may want to consider investing in a paper shredder. Over 40 percent of identity theft criminals know their victims personally. Take a step toward protecting yourself by properly destroying important documents.
- Put hard-to-replace documents in a water-tight container and/or fire-safe box. Place these records in a lockable cabinet.
- Create a folder for receipts and place in an easy-to-reach spot. At the end of every day, organize your receipts, either by date or type of purchase. When you receive a statement, check for inconsistencies, toss your receipts and start again.