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What to Keep? What to Toss?

With so many documents to keep track of, it may be difficult to determine which are safe to throw away and which to hold on to. Here are some helpful tips to help you know how long to retain information:

Bank records

  • Keep deposit and ATM receipts until you reconcile them with your monthly statements.
  • File your monthly checking and savings account statements. Okay to destroy bank statements after one year. Once you do your taxes, file any statements needed to prove deductions with your tax records; the rest can be shredded.
  • Consider free Online Banking and eStatements to simplify managing your money. You can view account history, see when checks have cleared and pay your bills with ease, plus reduce paper pile up.

Credit-card bills

  • You don't need to keep them after you've checked and paid them, unless you need a bill to support a deduction you'll be taking on your taxes, such as for a charitable donation (in which case you'll need to file the bill with your current-year tax records).
  • If an item you've charged is under warranty, keep the bill until the warranty expires. Staple the credit-card bill to the warranty document and put it in a file with other warranties; you may need the bill as proof of purchase if the item needs repair.

Utility bills

  • Throw out (unless needed for tax purposes).

Tax records

  • Destroy after six years.

Current-year tax records

  • Keeping your records organized can save you headaches and money at tax time.
  • Tax preparers might charge more if you give them a disorganized shoe box full of papers.
  • Place documents you'll need for your next return in a file. If you need to save a lot of receipts and bills, use a standing accordion file.

Insurance records

  • Keep for the life of your policy.

Investment statements

  • You can shred your monthly and quarterly statements from brokerage, 401(k), IRA, Keogh, and other investment accounts as new ones arrive. But hold on to annual statements until you sell the investments.
  • You may want to have separate folders for traditional and Roth accounts to help you keep track of amounts that are deductible and non¬deductible for tax purposes.
  • Better yet, sign up for electronic statements at your financial institution, <%=strBankName%> offers them at no charge.

Life documents

  • Store your birth or marriage certificates, diploma, divorce decree, or military records in a safe deposit box indefinitely. Check box availability at a nearby <%=strBankName%> office.
  • Homeowner records (deed and title): Do not throw away.
  • Documents relating to investment purchases, loans, and other items that expire or are sold can be stored in an out-of-the way file cabinet. But try to go through them once a year and toss out papers.

Loan documents

  • Keep closing documents for mortgage, vehicle, student, and other loans in a safe-deposit box. You can get rid of them after the loan is paid off.

Receipts

  • For major purchases, keep as long as you own the item.
  • If you do not do anything with your receipts such as track your spending, itemize tax deductions, or use them to return purchases; you can get rid of most of those little scraps of paper immediately.
  • If you need to keep receipts on hand so you can verify amounts against your credit-card bills or bank statements, create a folder labeled "receipts" and keep it with your bills-to-pay folder. That way you'll have your receipts handy when you pay your credit-card bills.
  • If you think you might return something, ask the sales¬person how long you have to decide, and jot down the date on your receipt.

Household furnishings paperwork

  • Keep receipts, warranties, and, while you're at it, instruction booklets for major appliances and electronics.
  • You can get rid of a warranty when the period it covers has passed and the rest of the material when you no longer own an item.
  • Ditto for canceled receipts and bills for major purchases such as furniture.

Pay stubs

  • Keep the calendar year's records until you reconcile them with your annual W-2 form, and then shred them.

Insurance policies

  • Keep policies that you renew each year, such as those for your home, apartment, or car, until you get new policies, then shred the old ones.
Visit shredit.northshorebank.com for the most up-to-date information and shredding truck locations for North Shore Bank's free Community Shredding Day.
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