I have a question about financial documents…. What should I be keeping and for how long should I keep it? Tax documents, bills, bank statements, pay stubs, old checkbooks, all of that stuff. I have probably a couple of boxes of this type of paperwork, but something is telling me I don’t need it. But I feel like I need to keep it, just in case.
Also – in my mind, and probably in my mind alone – it is necessary to keep receipts from my purchases to make sure things go through as they should…. But clearly a lot of people don’t get receipts. I have a feeling I am hoarding a lot of unnecessary paper. Any thoughts and advice on this would be most appreciated!
Thanks for the question. I understand the compulsion to keep everything, it feels safe. But really you don’t need to keep too much. Here’s what you need to keep and for how long:
– Receipts for ATM withdrawals and minor purchases can be kept until they’ve cleared your account or you’ve recorded them, but it’s not necessary.*
– Any statements from accounts such as utilities, phone bill, and credit cards are okay to shred each month when the new one comes. Although, if you have access to the statements online then there is no need to keep the statements at all. But if shredding them makes you nervous, keep the statements for one year and then check against the year end statement. If they match up, you can trash all the monthly statements and only keep the year end one.*
– Keep your paycheck stubs until you get your yearly W2, if they match up, you can trash the stubs.
– Keep your current insurance documents, when you get next years documents, shred the previous year.
– You can shred your monthly investment statements as the new one arrives. Keep the yearly statements until you sell or cash out the investments.
– Keep all medical records, expenses, and documents for one year. If you itemize the expenses on your taxes, keep the medical receipts with that year’s tax return documents.
– Receipts for expensive items (TVs, appliances) should be kept for the length of time you own the item.
– Keep tax returns for seven years, or indefinitely. Seven years is safe, indefinitely is extra safe.
– Keep records on purchases and sales of vehicles, homes, etc. indefinitely.
– Keep documents and receipts for vehicle and home maintenance for the length of time you own the vehicle or home.
– Keep these indefinitely: life insurance policies, estate planning documents, defined benefit planning documents, and annual statements for retirement and brokerage accounts.
*Unless it will be a part of a tax-deduction, then keep until tax time. Any receipts or documents used on your taxes should be kept until tax time, and then filed with your return.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.