Records Rundown

What Papers to Save and for How Long

With all the paper and electronic statements, agreements, receipts, and bills coming your way, it can be difficult to know what to save and for what reason. This table will help you keep the important records where you need them to be and get rid of the documents that are OK to toss. Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list—but it will certainly help you get started! 

 

Why

What

OK to Toss

 

Bills and receipts can be tossed once you have paid them and compared them with credit card and bank statements.

Old bills (phone, utility)
Grocery store receipts
ATM receipts

Keep for a Year

Certain items should be kept for up to a year to check against year-end statements and for tax filing purposes, in case you need to itemize deductions.

Store receipts—unless you need them for tax, insurance, or warranty purposes (which you should then keep for as long as you need them)
Pay stubs—to match up with the Form W-2 your employer sends  

Keep for 7 Years

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can audit your records for up to seven years after filing.

Bank and credit card statements that include tax-deductible charitable donations, tuition costs, business or medical expenses
Any records needed for tax deduction purposes that are not already included on bank and credit card statements 

Keep Until Not Needed

Some records need to be retained for an undefined amount of time, from a year for a short-term warranty to several years for documentation of loans you’re still paying off.

Warranties until expired
Loan documents until loans are paid in full
Insurance policies until expired and outstanding issues are resolved
Receipts, including model/serial numbers, for major purchases (cars, equipment, appliances)
Animal registration and immunizations
Reports and insurance claims (for theft or accidents)
Title to your car
Receipts for major items you have sold
Lease agreements and membership contracts
Credit card and bank account agreements

Keep Forever

Documents that are hard to replace should be stored in a secure fireproof box or safe deposit box.

Birth certificate
Educational records (transcripts, diplomas)
Employment records, including military papers
Adoption papers
Citizenship documents
Marriage certificate (and divorce, alimony, custody agreements)
Important health records such as immunizations
Passport
Social Security card
Year-end pay stubs and bonus statements
Records of contributions to retirement accounts
Change of name legalization papers
Stock and bond certificates
Mortgage, home deed and improvement records