Valdosta Daily Times


September 23, 2012

Brittany's Budget Diary: Kick your document hoarding to the curb!

VALDOSTA — For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know that I am currently re-decorating and re-arranging my entire condo. My most current project has been moving my office from the back of my living room to a spare room.

In this process, I have discovered six years of bills, receipts, tax returns and various other financial records. I’m not a hoarder, and I’m very organized, but there’s just something about financial records that intimidates me.

What do I do with them? Will I need them in 10 years? Will a homeless person attempt to strike gold by deciphering my bank account (the joke would be on them, of course)?

To solve my conundrum, I turned to the financial Bible ... There’s only one person I love more than myself, and that is Mr. Clark Howard. Of course, he had an entire article devoted to record, paperwork and file keeping.

Which paperwork to keep:

• Tax returns, keep forever.

• Tax return documentation, for seven years.

• Contracts, forever.

• Real estate records, forever.

• Last pay stub of a job if you leave that job.

• Last pay stub of the year until you reconcile with your W-2.

• All mortgage payment checks (statements), until mortgage is paid off.

• All student loan payments, until loan is paid off.

• Car loan payment stubs, until car is paid off.

• Canceled checks, seven years (this one shocked me).

• Bank deposit slips, until you reconcile your statements.

• Bank statements, until a calendar year; store with tax returns if they will be used as deductions.

• Home improvement records, ownership period plus seven years.

• Investment records, shred monthly and quarterly statements as new ones arrive; hold on to annual statements until you sell the investment.

Which records to toss:

• Credit card statements that are more than three years old.

• Past insurance statement.

• Old utility bills, except the most recent one from your old address if you’ve moved.

• Recently paid bills (statements), once you have something saying they’ve been paid.

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