Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Paperwork: What to keep and what to throw...

Most paperwork—even files associated with our retirement savings or taxes—outlives its usefulness pretty quickly. So pull up a chair, fire up the shredder and let's look at what you need to keep and what you can get rid of:

Keep Forever
Social Security cards
birth certificates
adoption papers
marriage licenses
mortgage paperwork
automobile titles (at least until you move or replace your car)
wills and estate-planning documents

Keep for Seven Years
tax records, including returns and any supporting documentation like cancelled checks, receipts or credit card statements. Many banks and credit card companies now maintain your historical statements online, so you may be able to avoid keeping paper copies.

Keep for One Year
monthly investment statements. Consider keeping your December statement on file if it summarizes the year's activity, but feel free to shred statements for the previous 11 months.
credit card statements (if not tied to your tax returns)
receipts that you are not using as supporting documentation for your taxes
*Don't forget to always file receipts with warranty info or your warranty is generally worth nothin'!

*Do you have a scanner? Once you have paid a bill and noted the Check #, date, etc on the bill, scan it in to your computer to a designated "bills" folder for that year. Be sure to regularly back your files up to an external source (zip drive or CD) and at the end of each year, do a full back up, label it and store it in a safe place. Then delete the files for that year from your computer and start the new year fresh!

*Can you go paperless with your bills? If you can, it will save you a lot of paperwork but you will probably have many passwords, websites and accounts to remember. Try keeping all of your information (website/passwords/etc) on a portable drive as well as a printed list that you can store securely. (Create .pdf files using this freeware: www.cutepdf.com

*Get organized and go green with EchoSign! It's geared primarily for business but has a growing future in personal use.

*Just want to organize your printed files effortlessly? Get started with the Financial Planning Organizer Kit. It fits into your filing cabinet and the index files tell you where to file documents and how long to keep the documents.

Here are some more great links with easy lists of keep or throw/shred and helpful tips:


Organizing Paperwork

Tips to KeepYour Paperwork Neat and Under Control

A Complete Guide to Effectively Organizing your Paperwork & Mail

Overcoming Paperwork Clutter

**This post dedicate to Ann.

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