How Long to Keep Paper

 

Type of Paper Keep How Long? More Details
ATM receipts Less than 1 year Keep until reconciled with monthly statements.
Auto records As long as you own the car
Bank statements 1 month Check with bank regarding storage of electronic records.
Birth certificates Forever Recommended to keep in safe deposit box or fire safe box.
Cancelled checks 7 years Tax supporting documents should be kept at least 6 years.
Charitable donation receipts 7 years Tax supporting documents should be kept at least 6 years.
Citizenship records Forever
Deposit/ATM receipts 1 month Discard after reconciling with monthly bank statement.
Divorce records Forever May be needed for insurance or inheritance records.
Education records Depends Some may be needed for employment or educational programs.
Estate planning documents Forever
Greeting cards and letters According to your comfort level
Home repair/maintenance records Forever Depends on the nature of the project or tax nature of the house.
Insurance policies Life of the policy Some policies (like life insurance) need to be kept forever.
Investment records Until you sell the investment Keep quarterly records for 1 year.
Loan documents Until the loan is paid off
Marriage records Forever May be needed for insurance or inheritance records.
Medical records Forever Keep test results, health reports.
Medical bills and statements Forever If tax-related, keep at least 7 years.
Mortgage records Forever May be needed for insurance or inheritance records.
Passports Forever Expired passport needed to obtain new one.
Paycheck stubs 1-2 years No longer needed after reconciling with W-2s.
Receipts (tax-deductible) 7 years Tax supporting documents should be kept for at six years.
Receipts (non-tax deductible) 1-3 months Discard when the return period ends, and/or purchases have been reconciled with bank statements.
Tax returns and supporting documents 7 years or more Keep the actual state and federal returns forever. Supporting documentation should be kept for at least seven years. An audit can be performed up to six years after filing.
User guides and manuals Life of the item Most manuals can be accessed online if needed. Discard those for items you no longer own.
Warranties As long as you own the item Keep warranties together in an easily accessible location in the home. Use a binder or document box for easy storage.
Wills Forever These documents may be needed for insurance or inheritance questions.

 

*Keep in mind that although these guidelines are given for physical paper, many of these categories are now handled all electronically.

The following is from “How Long to Keep Tax Records and Other Documents” by Mandy Walker; http://consumerreports.org/taxes/how-long-to-keep-tax-documents/:

  • Use a fireproof safe or password-protected electronic file for the following: Bank and investment statements, estate-planning documents, pension information, insurance policies, pay stubs, tax documents, and your safe-deposit box inventory list.
  • Invest in a safe-deposit box for papers that can’t be easily replaced: Original birth and death certificates, Social Security cards, passports, life-insurance documents, marriage and divorce decrees, military discharge information, vehicle titles, an inventory of your home’s contents (in case you need to make an insurance claim), and loan documents.

 

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