Follow these recommendations for what to keep and what to shred and you can save yourself time and frustration in the future. And then, commit to storing your financial documents securely, but accessibly, so you always know how to find what you need.
Original & signed documents
If you have any of these original and/or signed documents, keep them indefinitely and in an extremely secure place — usually a safe deposit box at your bank or post office:
- Stock certificates
- Power of attorney documents
- Birth certificates
- Marriage licenses and divorce decrees
- Death certificates
- Social Security cards
- Life insurance policies
- Military discharge papers
- Citizenship papers
Personal financial information
Keep these personal financial documents at home as long as you need them for reconciling accounts and managing your budget. You can pare down your paper piles by using online banking tools and requesting email receipts from stores.
- Cancelled checks or duplicates
- Sources of deposits
- Receipts and sales slips
- Loan payment records
- Bank and credit card statements
- Home purchase and improvements
The IRS may want access to supporting receipts and records for up to seven years, however there is no statute of limitation for tax fraud or a failure to file. Keeping copies of your past tax records can help you file future returns, and you may need them for amended or audited returns. For specific details about what to keep and for how long, see IRS Publication 17.
Storing paper documents
- Fireproof safe – Keeping important financial information at home in a lockable, fireproof safe can give you peace of mind that it will survive most exterior threats.
- Safe deposit box – If you are nervous about keeping important documents at home, rent a safe deposit box from a bank or post office.
- File cabinet – Make sure you get one that locks and safely store the keys in different locations.
Storing electronic documents
- Online storage – With appropriate security protocols, you can safely store your electronic financial documents on cloud-based storage. This gives you the convenience of accessing your financial documents from anywhere — anytime you can connect to the Internet.
- Store on a hard drive – Saving your financial documents on your hard drive keeps them easily accessible. Store another copy on an external hard drive for backup purposes as well as transportability.
Contact a financial professional or speak with an attorney, accountant or other trusted advisor to answer any questions you may have on retaining and storing financial information.
Note: Provided content is for overview and informational purposes only and is not intended as tax, legal, fiduciary, or investment advice.