Check out our guide of what to toss when
Social Security cards
Credit card statements
Emergency contact information (insurance agents, doctors, family)
Retirement savings statements
Marriage certificates/divorce decrees
How Long to Keep Documents
Keep tax returns, as well as supporting documents like W-2 forms, receipts, and real estate closing statements for seven years. The IRS may audit you within three years if it suspects good-faith errors; six years if it believes you underreported your income by at least 25%; and unlimited time if you did not file a return or filed a fraudulent one.
Keep as long as you own the securities, plus another seven years [Rich]. You'll need them to prove capital gains and losses.
One month. You just need these long enough to check the accuracy of the transactions [Williams]. Unless the statement is your only record for a tax-related transaction, there's no need to keep them longer. Plus, your bank will have them available online.
Retirement plan statements
Most, one year, for tax purposes [Rich]. Keep Roth IRA statements until you retire, to prove you already paid tax on your contributions [Rich].
Credit card statements
Shred immediately after checking the accuracy of the transactions [Williams]. These documents
are a prime source for identity theft. Unless the statement is your only record for a tax-related transaction, there's no need to keep them longer. Plus, your issuer will have them available online.
One year, until you receive your W-2 [Rich].
One year, for tax purposes [Rich].
Until you begin claiming Social Security. They're the best estimate of your earnings and entitlements.
Now that you know what to keep and what to toss, check out Organize Important Papers and Documents for tips on keeping your paperwork organized.
1. Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer group on privacy and identity theft issues. Web: privacyrights.org. Office phone: 619-298-3396.
2. Alicia Rockmore, co-founder of Buttoned Up, Inc. a company that provides organizational tips and tools. Web: getbuttonedup.com. Office phone: 734-477-5020.
3. Kate Williams, vice president of financial literacy for Money Management International, which oversees the Consumer Credit Counseling Service agencies. Web: moneymanagement.org. Office phone:1-800-698-6512.
4. Sharon Rich, a fee-only financial planner based in Belmont, Mass. who specializes in women and families. Web: womoney.com. Office phone: 617-489-3601.
5. IRS Publication 552; Recordkeeping for Individuals. Web: irs.gov .
6. Identity Theft Resource Center report; The Aftermath 2006. Web: idtheftcenter.org .
7. American Red Cross publication, Disaster Supplies Kit. Web: redcross.org .