Paper: What to Keep and How Long to Keep It
Have you tried to get a handle on your paper clutter, only to freeze when you realize you don’t know what to keep and what to toss? Here’s a fairly comprehensive guide* for how long to keep certain documents. When in doubt, ask yourself “how will I use this?” If you can’t come up with a good, plausible situation, it can probably exit your life.
*I’m not a financial professional; check with your tax or financial advisor to be totally sure of what you can let go.
- Identity documents like birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates, Social Security cards
- Proof of ownership (as long as you own it) like house, auto, mortgage, and initial insurance documents
- Tax returns (toss documentation after 7 years)
- Estate planning documents like wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
- Military discharge papers
- Medical records
- Annual investment statements (keep until you sell the investments, then store them with your 7 years worth of tax documentation)
Keep for 1 Year (or less)
- Bank and credit card statements: for most banks and credit cards, you can get at lest the past years’ statements online, so just go paperless and don’t worry about it!
- Pay stubs
- Explanation of health benefits
Keep Until The Next One Comes
- Social Security statements, which are now online as well
- Insurance statements
- Investment statements (monthly or quarterly; see above for annual statements)
- Retirement plan statements
Get Rid of It Now!
- Receipts for anything that you can’t return or write off
- ATM slips, if the balance is correct