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Ask the CFP – How should I manage my important documents? (Part 2)

October 12, 2020

Ask the CFP – How should I manage my important documents? (Part 2)

This column is where our staff of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals answers your financial planning questions. The question we’ll address in this issue is:

How long should you keep your records?

Generally, a good rule of thumb is to keep financial records and documents only as long as necessary. For example, you may want to keep ATM and credit-card receipts only temporarily, until you’ve reconciled them with your bank and/or credit-card statement. On the other hand, if a document is legal in nature and/or difficult to replace, you’ll want to keep it for a longer period or even indefinitely.

Some financial records may have more specific timetables. For example, the IRS generally recommends that taxpayers keep federal tax returns and supporting documents seven years after the date of filing. Certain circumstances may even warrant keeping your tax records indefinitely.

Listed below are some recommendations on how long to keep specific documents:

Records to keep for one year or less:

  • Bank or credit union statements
  • Credit-card statements
  • Utility bills
  • Auto and homeowner’s insurance policy statement

Records to keep for more than a year:

  • Tax returns and supporting documentation
  • Mortgage contracts
  • Property appraisals
  • Annual retirement and investment statements
  • Receipts for major purchases and home improvements

Records to keep indefinitely:

  • Birth, death, and marriage certificates
  • Adoption records
  • Citizenship
  • Military discharge papers
  • Social Security card
  • Legal documents such as divorce decrees, separation agreements, etc.

Keep in mind that the above recommendations are general guidelines, and your personal circumstances may warrant keeping these documents for shorter or longer periods.

To be continued in our next blog post.

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