A primer on how long to keep documents - and how to organize and store them - should serve as a quick reference guide for creating and maintaining a workable home filing system.
These documents should be stored forever:
- Academic Records - Diplomas, transcripts and any portfolio work that may be used in the future when applying for a job.
- Adoption Papers
- Baptismal Certificates
- Birth Certificates
- Death Certificates - May be needed for tax purposes.
- Driver's Licenses
- Employment Records - Any clauses, agreements, disciplinary files and performance reviews.
- Marriage Certificates
- Medical Records
- Military Records
- Retirement and Pension Records
- Social Security Cards
These documents you may touch as often as monthly or weekly:
- Bank Statements - 1 month
- Bills - 1 year for anything tax or warranty related, all other bills should be shred as soon as they have been paid.
- Credit Card Bills - Shred immediately when paid.
- Home Improvement Receipts - Keep until home is sold.
- Investment Records - 7 years after you've closed the account or sold the security.
- Leases - Keep until you've moved out and have received your deposit back from the landlord.
- Paychecks / Pay Stubs - 1 year until you've received your W-2
- Sales Receipts - Keep for the life of the warranty. Obviously, this applies only to major purchases like appliances and electronics. I typically keep receipts for things like groceries and clothing only as long as I know I am not going to need the receipt for a return.
- Tax Documents - 7 years including your filing and all accompanying documents like W-2s and receipts.
- Vehicle Records - Keep until boat, car or motorcycle is sold.
Make sure to have a flexible filing system set up to keep these documents in check and shred them when they are no longer necessary.