Financial Data: What to Shred, What to Stash

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)
It's Back To School for Your Finances

More on MoneyWatch.com