Julie Morgenstern
The big question people always ask me is, "How long should I keep certain papers?" It is imperative that you check with your accountant and/or lawyer before throwing out any financial or legal papers, because they know most about your individual situation.

Here's a general guide of what to keep and for how long.

Automobile records (titles, registration, repairs)—As long as you own the vehicle(s)

Appointment books
—1 to 10 years, depending on your comfort level

ATM slips
—Maximum six years if needed for tax purposes

Bank statements
—Maximum six years if needed for tax purposes

Credit card statements
—Maximum six years if tax-related purchases on statements; otherwise, until annual interest statement is issued by company

Calendars (past)
—According to your comfort level and whether you use them for reference or memorabilia   Catalogs and magazines—Until the next issue

Dividend payment records
—Until an annual statement is supplied by company, then just only annual statements

Household inventory and appraisal
—As long as current

Insurance policies (auto, homeowners, liability)
—As long as the statute of limitations runs in the event of late claims

Insurance policies (disability, medical, life, personal property, umbrella)
—As long as you own it

Investments (purchase records)
—As long as you own them

Investments (sales records)
—Maximum six years for tax purposes

Mortgage or loan discharge
—As long as you own, or six years after discharge  
Appliances—As long as you own the item

Art, antiques, collectibles—As long as you own the item

Clothing—For the length of the returns period, unless tracking your household budget

Credit card slips—Until your statement comes and you can match purchases

Furniture—As long as you own the item in case repair is needed

Home improvements—As long as you own your home, or six years after sale

Household repairs—For life of warranty, or longer to reference reliability record of service people and their rates

Major purchases—For the life of the item

Medical and tax-related—Maximum of six years

Rent—Your canceled check is sufficient

Utility bills—Your current bill and one previous year's to check billing patterns

Warranties and instructions—For the life of warranty or the item. Stick label with warranty expiration date and service repair number on bottom of appliance. If something breaks down, you've got an easy way to check if the item's still covered without even having to go to your file drawer.  
Property bill of purchase—As long as you own the property

Résumé—As long as it's current

Safe Deposit Box key and inventory—As long as it's current

Tax records (bank statements and canceled checks, certificates of deposit, contracts, charitable contributions, credit statements, income tax returns, lease and loan agreements, loan payment books, pension plan records, pay stubs)—The current year, plus six prior years

Vital Records (Adoption papers, birth & death certificates, citizenship papers, copyrights/patents, marriage certificate, divorce decree, letter of "Last Instructions" to executor or heirs, medical illness and vaccination records, passports, Power of Attorney, Social Security records, Wills)—Permanently  

Now that you know how long to hang on to important papers, set up a file folder system that works for you!


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