Save or Shred: How Long Should You Keep Documents?

Cathy's Tuesday TipAre you a “paper hoarder?” Paper clutter can be a huge issue in our homes and businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. There are digital filing software programs on the market to elevate our overload of papers that are in need of organizing. If you categorize yourself as an extreme paper hoarder, you may need to hire a professional organizer. For the majority of us we just need to take the time to go through our paper clutter and decide what needs to be filed or shredded. I have compiled a list of documents that should be kept and for how long and also a list of documents that can be sent to the shredder. Hopefully these examples will help end the pain of paper clutter. Hope you enjoy Cathy’s Tuesday Tip! ~Cathy

The Keepers

It is a good idea to have these documents in a digital format, but you should also keep the originals forever. Storing these in a fireproof safe, will keep them organized and secure.

cloud storage

  • Academic records- diplomas and transcripts
  • Adoption papers
  • Baptismal certificates
  • Birth certificates and copies
  • Death certificates (for tax purposes)
  • Divorce and child support documents
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Employment records
    • contracts, agreements, reviews, and disciplinary reports
  • Marriage certificate
  • Medical records
  • Military records
  • Passports
  • Retirement and pension records
  • Social security cards
  • Wills and deeds

Short Term Keepers

These are reviewed more often and may change frequently. Only keep these as long as they are relevant. Shred these documents once they are no longer needed.bookkeeping

  • Bank statements – 1 month
  • Bills – Keep tax or warranty related documents for 1 year. The rest should be shredded once paid.
  • Credit card bills – Shred once paid.
  • Home improvement receipts – Transfer to the new owner when/if house is sold.
  • Investment records – Shred 7 years after the account is closed or investments have been sold.
  • Leases – Keep until the lease has ended and the deposit has been returned.
  • Paycheck stubs – Shred after a year or until W-2 has been received.
  • Sales receipts – Major purchases such as appliances should be kept for the lifetime of the warranty.
  • Tax documents – Keep all tax documents, W-2’s and receipts, for 7 years and then shred.
  • Vehicle records – Keep until the vehicle has been sold.

The Shredders

If the document is of no use to you anymore, shred it! For daily paperwork, feel free to chunk in the recycle bin!

  • ATM receipts
  • Bank statements
  • Canceled/voided checks
  • Credit card bills
  • Credit reports
  • Expired driver’s licenses
  • Expired passports
  • Investment account numbers
  • Investment, property, and stock transactions
  • Legal documents
  • Luggage tags
  • Medical and dental records
  • Papers with social security numbers
  • Papers with signatures
  • Passwords
  • Credit card applications
  • Receipts with identifying information
  • Tax forms
  • Travel itinerary
  • Used airline tickets
  • Utility bills

Are you still wondering what to shred? The general rule is anything with the following information should be shred: account numbers, birth dates, maiden names, passwords and pins, signatures, and social security numbers. Shredding is the most efficient way to save yourself from identity theft. Remember, if the document is still active, keep it until the use has expired… just to be safe.

I hope you enjoyed Cathy’s Tuesday Tip this week. To view more of Cathy’s Tuesday Tips, visit our blog.