How long do I keep that? Declutter your file cabinet

Every year do you look at your file cabinet and wonder how long should you keep this document?

The guide below will help you determine how long each document should be kept. This is not a complete list, if you have questions on a certain document, consult your tax advisor.

Documents to Keep ‘Til the End of Time

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Pension plan documents
  • ID cards and passports
  • Marriage license
  • Business license
  • Military discharge papers
  • Any insurance policy
  • Wills, living wills, and powers of attorney
  • Vehicle titles
  • Loan documents
  • House deeds and mortgage documents
  • House records: cancelled checks for major home improvements and maintenance (for the length of home ownership)
  • Medical records
  • Photos or video tapes of valuables
  • Tax return copies and worksheets
  • Income tax payment checks
  • Annual IRA or other investment contribution statements, pension/profit-sharing informational returns

Keep physical copies of these documents in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box or a fire-proof safe—one single location that’s easy to grab in case you need to evacuate—and also make digital copies for off-site backup.

Documents to Toss As New Ones Arrive

The paper parade is endless. The good news is with every new investment statement, renewed insurance policy, or many other regularly recurring documents, you can keep just the latest version. Specifically, you can shred these documents when you get the new one:

  • Monthly or quarterly investment statements (for annual statements, see the next section)
  • Social security statements
  • Annually renewed insurance policies

Documents to Keep Until a Specific Time or Event

  • Credit card receipts: After you’ve reconciled them with your monthly statement—unless it’s needed for a warranty or tax filing. In those cases, keep the receipts with the product manual until the warranty expires or with your tax papers.
  • Bank deposit or withdrawal slips: After you reconcile with your monthly statement
  • Credit card and bank statements: 7 years if you need them for tax support, otherwise one year.
  • Annual investment statements: Until you sell the investments, then hold them for 7 years after you sell with your tax papers.
  • Paycheck stubs: After reconciling with your W-2 form and have paid your taxes
  • Health explanation of benefits (EOB): 1 year
  • Utility records: At least 3 years
  • Taxes and supporting records (e.g., tax-related medical bills, donations, etc): The common recommendation is 7 years, because that’s how far back the IRS usually goes if you’re audited.

This list is not a full listing of everything. If you are unsure about how long to keep a document. Ask your tax advisor.

If you do not have a tax advisor. Capital Advisory Group, Inc. is here to answer your questions.

If you have a business click here to read about what you should keep for your business.