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2. "Retirement Accounts." All of your retirement account statements go here. You should create a file for each retirement account that you and your partner have. If you have three IRAs and a 401(k) plan, then you should have a separate file for each. The most important documents to file are the quarterly statements. If you have a company retirement account, you should also definitely keep your sign-up package, because it lists the investment options you have—something you should review at least once a year. You don't need to keep the prospectuses that the mutual-fund companies mail you each quarter.

3. "Social Security." Keep your most recent Social Security Benefits Statement in this folder. If you haven't received a statement in the mail in the last 12 months, request one by going online to www.ssa.gov or telephoning the Social Security Administration toll-free at (800) 772-1213.

4. "Investment Accounts." This folder is for every statement you receive related to any investments you may have (mutual funds, stocks, bonds, etc.) that are not in a retirement account. Prepare a separate file folder for every brokerage account you maintain.

5. "Savings and Checking Accounts." Keep your monthly bank statements here, with a separate file folder for each account. Generally speaking, you don't need to keep bank statements for more than a few months—certainly not more than a year. If you get your statement online, print out a copy and stick it in the file.

6. "Household Accounts." If you own your own home, this hanging folder should contain the following files:
  • "House Title," for documents such as title reports and title insurance policies. (If you can't find this stuff, call your real estate agent or title company.)
  • "Home Improvements," for all your receipts for any home-improvement work you do. (Since home improvement expenses can be added to the cost basis of your house when you sell it, which means a bigger tax deduction for you, you should keep these receipts for as long as you own your house.)
  • "Home Mortgage," for all your mortgage statements. (Which you should check regularly, since mortgage companies often don't credit you properly.) If you're a renter, this folder should contain your lease, the receipt for your security deposit, and the receipts or canceled checks for your rental payments.

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