Need help organizing your financial documents?

If you don’t have a clear idea of how long you need to keep your various financial documents, you’re not alone. Many us of end up keeping everything, and the piles just keeping growing – sometimes at an alarming rate. Here is some guidance to help determine how long to keep your records.

Keep less than a year

  • Retain ATM, bank deposit and credit cards receipts until you reconcile them with your monthly statements. (Then you can shred them unless you need them to support your tax return.)
  • Insurance policies and investments statements should be retained until you receive updated documents.

Keep for a year or longer

  • Retain loan documents until the loan is paid off.
  • Car titles should be retained until you sell the vehicle.
  • For stocks, bonds and mutual funds, keep purchase confirmations so you can establish your cost basis and holding period.

Keep for seven years

  • Keep all tax records for seven years. The government has six years to collect taxes or start a legal proceeding involving tax returns.

Keep forever

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce decrees
  • Social security cards
  • Military discharge papers
  • Defined-benefit plan documents
  • Estate planning documents
  • Life insurance policies
  • Inventory of your safe deposit box

Storing your files

  • Use a fire-proof safe or a password-protected electronic file for bank and investment statements, estate-planning documents, pension information, pay stubs and tax documents.
  • You may want to consider using a safe deposit box for papers that cannot be easily replaced (birth and death certificates,
  • Social Security cards, passports, life insurance documents and marriage and divorce decrees).
    Backing up electronic files to the cloud is a good idea as long as the provider uses encryption technology.