Keeping Personal Financial Documents

Earning, spending and saving money result in paperwork that must be completed or archived to help you track your earning, spending, taxation and investments. Different types of documents must be retained for varying lengths of time. With a careful filing system, you can keep personal financial documents for the proper length of time and then destroy them to ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands.

Things You'll Need

  • File folders
  • File labels
  • Paper shredder
  • Safe-deposit box


    • 1

      Label a file folder for tax information for the current year. Store in this file folder all statements, bills and receipts that support deductions, as well as earnings information, such as paycheck stubs and W-2 forms. File annual investment statements for deductible investments in the tax folder.

    • 2

      Save routine bank statements only until you have checked them carefully and reconciled your bank accounts. The only bank statements that must be saved on a yearly basis are those needed to prove tax deductions. Shred all other bank statements immediately after you reconcile accounts. File bank statements that must be saved in the current year’s tax file folder.

    • 3

      Review credit-card bills carefully each month to ensure that the billing is correct. Save only credit-card bills that contain proofs of purchase of items that you will deduct on your taxes or items that have a warranty. File credit-card bills for deductions in a yearly tax file folder. Staple credit-card bills for warranties with the relevant purchase information for the items and store them in a separate file folder. Shred all other credit-card bills immediately after checking them.

    • 4

      Place insurance policies in a designated file folder. Save these policies until they are replaced or superseded by newer policies. Shred old policies immediately.

    • 5

      Save investment statements only until you replace them with current ones. Shred the old statements immediately.

    • 6

      Save receipts that you may need to prove deductions, for warranties or for future returns. Create a file folder to hold receipts -- for items that may need to be returned -- in one place for easy retrieval. Place warranty receipts with the documentation and credit-card bills for those items. Place tax-deduction receipts in the tax folder.

    • 7

      Save income-tax returns and accompanying records for seven years, in case you are audited. After seven years, shred the records and save only the returns, if you wish. Transfer documents to digital format for easier storage; keep any electronic files on secure, protected media storage.

    • 8

      Make a file folder for each vehicle that you own. Place service records and relevant receipts in the appropriate folders.

    • 9

      Use a safe-deposit box for active loan documents, savings bonds, vehicle registration and title records, pension plans, wills, powers of attorney, life-insurance policies, marriage license, divorce decree, birth and/or death certificates, military discharge documents and Social Security cards. Make copies of the documents to keep in file folders at home, if you wish, so that you have convenient access to the information.

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