Financial Records Spring Cleaning Checklist
As we get closer to the start of spring many of us are going through our homes to do some much needed spring cleaning. But what should you be doing with all those statements and documents from your bank and other financial institutions? How do you decide what to keep and what to toss?
Pathstone’s tax team has some tips to make sure your financial records are as organized as everything else in your life!
Keep critical documents and records safe and secure but accessible in a time of need
Documents deserving extra protection include:
- Property deeds
- Trust documents
- Insurance policies
- Automobile titles
- Stock and bond certificates
- Wills and estate plans
- Personal property inventory
- Marriage and birth certificates
- Military discharge papers
Keeping copies of vital records can save time, money, and headaches
There may be times when you need to know certain information contained on documents you’ve placed in safekeeping but don’t need the actual document. Avoid the inconvenience of obtaining the original documents by making copies of them for your file.
Make backup copies of all computerized records
These days, many people keep important records on their personal computer. This can be an easy way to keep your records organized and updated, but it is important to keep a backup copy of these records in a safe place. If your hard drive has a meltdown, you’ll need to be able to recreate the important financial information that was lost.
Save all essential records, receipts, and documents that your budgeting system requires
There are many reasons to save important records. If you apply for a loan (such as a mortgage, auto loan, or education loan ), you will have to provide proof of your income. If you notice that money is disappearing out of your checking account, you’ll need your bank statements to back up your claim of unauthorized transactions etc.
Keep records as long as appropriate
Different records need to be saved for different periods of time. Divide your records into categories, such as short-term, medium-term, and long-term. There are no concrete rules about how long records must be saved, so you will often have to use your own judgment.
The following guidelines may help:
Short-term (1-3 years)
- Household bills, except those that support tax deductions (items such as heat, water, and electricity are generally short-term unless you deduct them for home office use or a rental)
- Expired insurance policies
Medium-term (6-7 years)
- Tax returns and supporting information
- Income and expense records (including lottery tickets and winnings)
- Bank and credit union statements
- Brokerage house statements
- Canceled checks and check registers (checks for major purchases may be kept longer)
- Paid-off loan documents
- Personal property sales receipts
- Tax dispute records
- Evidence of retirement plan contributions
- Investment records
- Medical history information
- Pension/retirement plan documents
- Social Security information
Other (as noted)
- Home ownership/sale documents: 7 years after sale or indefinitely
- Home improvement records: 7 years after sale
Save space: Annually review retained records and discard those no longer needed
Some records and documents can be discarded after all potential usefulness has passed. Depending on circumstances, records can accumulate quickly and require extensive storage space. Discarding records that are no longer necessary saves space and makes finding a record you need easier.
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