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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.


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 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


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


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)


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

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by On Your Own, the National Endowment for Financial Education or any of its affiliate programs.]