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Organizing Your Financial Records

Is your garage overflowing with bank statements and paid bills from ten years ago? Are you unsure about what documents need to be retained and what can be tossed? Speaking of tossing, what documents can be tossed in the trash, and which should be shredded? Here are some suggestions for getting that paper under control today.

  • Implement an electronic filing system, where you can easily store all vital documents without the need to hold on to them indefinitely. Make sure they are backed-up in a secure area as well.  
  • Sign up for e-billing which eliminates the need to scan and then shred documents. You’ll always have access to prior months documents and can download and save the current billing statement on your computer if desired.
  • Switch to online bill payment. While many people are hesitant to pay their bills online, online security has increased tremendously in recent years. Not only does online bill payment eliminate the need to write a check and mail a payment, it eliminates the need to store months and months of statements.  
  • Sign up for electronic statements from your bank and other accounts. Today, banks keep up to 18 months of bank statements that can be easily accessed from your online banking account. If a statement is needed, just go online and download a PDF statement to print, or save on your computer for future reference. Enrolling in electronic statements also eliminates the need to shred canceled checks and old statements. For your accounts at Stonebridge we can help you sign up for e-delivery of your statements and confirmations.  

Keep in mind that there are some documents that will need to be saved forever, such as birth certificates and academic transcripts, that will be used frequently throughout your life. Be sure to keep original documents secured and provide a copy to entities that may require it.

Here are some other documents you’ll want to keep for life (originals):

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Social security cards
  • ID cards and passports
  • Marriage license
  • Business license
  • Military discharge papers
  • Life insurance policy (as long as in force)
  • Wills, living wills, powers of attorney
  • Vehicle titles (for the life of the vehicle)
  • House deeds and mortgage documents (as long as owned, then documents showing sale and proof of mortgage payoff)

It’s a good idea to keep digital copies of all of the above, as well.

Other files to keep digitally or maintain online access:

  • Pension plan documents
  • Medical records
  • Photos/videos of valuables
  • Loan documents
  • Annual investment statements (for 7 years if needed with tax statement)

Documents to Toss or Shred as New Ones Arrive:

  • Monthly/Quarterly investment statements
  • Social security statements
  • Annually renewed insurance policies (auto, home, etc.)

Documents to Keep Until a Specific Time (can also be done digitally):

  • Credit card receipts (until reconciled with statement or if needed for a warranty or taxes)
  • Bank deposit/withdrawal slips (until reconciled with statement)
  • Credit card and bank statements (one year unless you need them for tax support)
  • Pay stubs (1 year after reconciling with W-2 and have paid taxes)
  • Health explanation of benefits (1 year)
  • Utility records (1 year unless needed for home business deduction – then 7 years)
  • Taxes and supporting records (7 years)

For those documents you no longer need to keep in paper form, Stonebridge Financial Planning Group, LLC® offers free shredding services for clients. Just bring by paperwork when convenient for you to be securely disposed of.

By combining timely shredding, recycling, and online banking and bill payment, you’ll have that pile of documents down to a manageable level in no time.