Financial Data: What to Shred, What to Stash

Last Updated Sep 6, 2011 11:22 AM EDT

Drowning in financial data and statements? You're not alone -- in fact one of the most frequently-asked questions I field is "how long do I have to keep (fill in the blank)?"

In honor of the back-to-school season, where organization takes center-stage, grab that shredder and get ready for the big purge!

WHAT TO TOSS AND WHEN
  • Bank Statements: 1 year (toss the ATM statements after you make sure that the transaction is accounted for on the bank statement)
  • Credit Card bills: Shred after payment, unless you need for taxes
  • Retirement Accounts (401(k), 403 (b), 457, IRA, Roth, etc): Shred as new ones arrive
  • Brokerage and Mutual Fund Accounts: Shred as new ones arrive, but since these are TAXABLE accounts, you should keep annual statements until the sale of each asset within the accounts
  • Investment purchase confirmations/1099s: keep until you sell, then keep for subsequent 7 years
  • Tax Returns/Supporting Documents: Keep for 7 years
KEEP FOR AS LONG AS YOU OWN THE FOLLOWING ASSETS:
  • Appliance Warranties
  • Vehicle Titles
  • Vehicle Loan Documents
  • Auto Insurance Policy
  • House Deeds
  • Mortgage Documents
  • Homeowners Insurance Policy
  • Disability Insurance Policies (keep as long as in-force)

KEEP FOREVER (IN A VERY SAFE PLACE!)
  • Birth/Death certificates & Social Security cards
  • Marriage Licenses and Divorce Decrees
  • Pension plan documents
  • Safe-deposit box inventory
  • Life Insurance policies
  • Copies of wills, trusts, health care proxies/living wills and powers of attorney (attorney/executor should have copies)

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    Jill Schlesinger, CFP®, is the Editor-at-Large for CBS MoneyWatch. She covers the economy, markets, investing or anything else with a dollar sign. Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch in 2009, Jill was the chief investment officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.

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