What to shred, when to shred

November 04, 2013

 

What to shred, what to save? When to shred, when to save? We get asked these questions all the time.  Managing household and business records can be overwhelming and often we hang on to files too long increasing our risk for having those sensitive files exposed.  Having a records management system in place will help to keep you organized and able to find those files on the occasion you may need them. 

If you are having a hard time cleaning out files here are some guidelines to help you get started.  First start by making three piles, an active file, dead storage and items to shred.  The active file should include all the records you deal with on a regular basis such as bill payments, bank statements, credit card information, employment records, health records, insurance policies, password lists, household inventory, tax receipts, appliance manuals and loan statements.  The dead storage file should include all active file papers over 3 years old unless they are files that you may refer to frequently such as appliance manuals.  The last pile should be your shred pile, which includes cashed checks, expired warranties, pay stubs after filing your W-2, and any other paper no longer needed. 

How long should you hang on to your personal files?   If you have questions always check with your accountant or the USA.GOV website for updated information.  Remember many of our records are now accessible online such as bank statements and online bill pay systems.   Here is a reference chart created by USA.GOV.

 

Bank Statements

1 year, unless needed to support tax filings

Contracts

Until updated version is created

Credit Card records

Until paid

Home purchase and improvement records

As long as you own the property

Investment Statements

Shred monthly, keep annual until you sell investments

Loan documents

Until you sell the item or pay off loan

Real estate deeds

As long as you own the property

Receipts for large purchases

Until you sell or discard the item

Social Security Card

Forever

Tax records

7 years from filing

Vehicle Titles

Until you sell or dispose of vehicle

Birth Certificates, Marriage Licenses, passports, military service records, divorce decrees, education records

Forever

For any records you can scan them, store digitally and shred the paper copy if you are concerned about needing a copy later.  Once you have implemented your records management system for your household, you should consider an off-site storage.  If you don’t want to store them off-site invest in a fireproof/waterproof safe to protect files. Records that should be securely stored in a safe deposit box or a fire/waterproof home safe would include:

·      Advanced directives

·      Birth & Death certificates

·      Adoption papers

·      Contracts of importance

·      Life insurance policies

·      Passports

·      Powers of attorney

·      Social security cards

·      Wills

·      Stock and bond certificates

·      Deeds and property titles

·      Citizenship papers

·      Military discharge papers

·      Marriage licenses and divorce decrees

 

If you have a safe deposit box remember to keep a copy of your will, advance medical directives and power of attorney accessible in the event something tragic happens to you since your safe deposit box will be sealed. 

By developing a system of records management that works for you it will allow you to de-clutter and recycle!  If you hate sitting and shredding your files utilize a service like Condor Document Services, who will come directly to you and shred everything on-site.  Another great service is the ShredSack.  It allows you to fill up the bag at your leisure and have it shredded conveniently.  By using a shredding service you are taking the steps to decrease your risk of identity theft by ensuring a secure chain of custody throughout the entire records destruction and disposal process.    

Managing your records and taking the steps to prevent identity theft is the best way to avoid a long and painful process of restoring your identity.  It’s not only financial identity that is devastating, but also medical identity theft can take twice as long to recover from and can be harmful to both your finances and medical insurance policies.  

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