What Papers to Keep

(Sort the Junk)

So, you know where to find the ticket stub from your first concert and your 7th-grade school ID, but could you find your tax forms from 2 years ago? Welcome to the wonderful world of paperwork. Some things are a pain to replace, so you’ll want to guard them closely. But don’t be afraid to purge what you don’t need. It’s a fine line between being sentimental and being a straight-up hoarder.

WHAT PAPERS TO KEEP FOREVER

Lock this stuff up in a secure, fireproof box or safe deposit box:

  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Social Security card
  • Citizenship documents
  • Marriage certificate (and divorce, alimony, custody agreements)
  • Educational records (transcripts, diplomas)
  • Employment records, including military papers
  • Medical records, like immunizations and test results
  • Mortgage, home deed and improvement records
  • Adoption papers
  • Year-end pay stubs and bonus statements
  • Records of contributions to retirement accounts
  • Change of name legalization papers
  • Stock and bond certificates
Flat lay of how to organize important papers.

KEEP UNTIL NOT NEEDED

Keep these until you’re sure-sure (like, really sure) you won’t need them:

  • Title to your car (until you sell)
  • Warranties until expired
  • Loan documents until loans are paid in full
  • Insurance policies until expired and outstanding issues are resolved
  • Receipts and model/serial numbers for major purchases (cars, equipment, appliances)
  • Animal registration and immunizations
  • Reports and insurance claims (for theft or accidents)
  • Receipts for major items you’ve sold
Young woman playing with her dog instead of deciding what records she should keep.
  • Lease agreements and membership contracts
  • Credit card and bank account agreements

KEEP FOR 7 YEARS

Save these for the Tax Man:

  • Tax returns — 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 you need to back up tax deductions

KEEP FOR A YEAR

Check these against year-end statements:

  • Pay stubs to match up with your W-2 form at tax time
  • Store receipts (but if you need them for tax, insurance or warranty purposes, keep them longer)

SHRED IT, BRO

Double-check these against credit card and bank statements, then toss — or better yet, shred — them:

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

As always, we’ve got your back. — The On Your Own Team End of article insignia



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