February 2019
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To keep or not to keep?

With tax season finally behind us (most of us), it seems a good time to begin thinning out some of those paper financial records that accumulate with lightning speed. But what can we safely toss?

I’ve read many an article on document retention. One of my favorites — Purge your financial paperwork — comes from MSN Money’s personal finance writer, Liz Pulliam Weston. In the article, Liz suggests three principles to guide you as you go:

1. Your most vital paperwork — such as tax returns and milestone records (birth, death, and marriage certificates, for example) — should be saved for seven years to life. (She provides specifics later.)

2. Most documents can be re-created. This is a basic de-cluttering principle: Ask yourself, “If I get rid of this and find that I need it later, will I be able to reproduce it?” If the answer is yes, you can probably pitch it. Keep in mind that most financial institutions should be able to reproduce records for you; check with yours to see how far back they can go.

3. Electronic records are generally considered acceptable substitutes for paper. Check with your own accountant to be sure, if you wish, but the IRS has accepted electronic records for years.

The rest of this article gives specific advice about how long you should keep various categories of paper clutter, so have a read and get started!

By the way, don’t forget to shred. Everyone should have a cross-cut shredder at home; if you don’t, please buy even an inexpensive one, available from most office supplies vendors.

Helpful resources from Kiplinger

The May issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine arrived in my mailbox today, and with it, a terrific cover story called, “Financial Fixes in 15 Minutes (or Less).” You’ll likely be seeing some of those good ideas shared here along the way, but for now, head on over to the magazine’s Web-only companion article, “Save Money on Practically Everything,” and have a browse. You’ll find tips for saving on food, entertainment, health care, banking, utility bills, travel, and more. And who can’t benefit from that?

When your elderly parents clearly need help handling finances

From Forbes.com, here’s an excellent report on steps to take when you’re clued in that your parents are slipping in their attention to routine personal financial affairs.

The Forbes report fails to mention, however, the American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM) as another resource; visit AADMM’s Web site to locate a qualified daily money manager in your — or your parents’ — geographic area who can be “on the ground” locally to assist in- or out-of-state adult children with this sensitive task … and generally at a much lower fee than a financial planner or tax accountant.

Want to unload some old gadgets?

You might even get some money for them.

One of my favorite resources, Bottom Line Personal (in this instance, Vol. 30, No. 10, p. 16), suggests that you check out www.gazelle.com and www.MyBoneYard.com for ways to cash in on a variety of no-longer-used electronics — including monitors (can you believe it?), computers, and cell phones.

Clues that seniors may need help with finances

Daily money managers have identified 12 clues that could indicate when a senior is beginning to lose control of his or her personal finances.

On the checking account side, one example would be multiple checks written in the same month to the same vendor. Another would be lost or missing checks.

Credit card statments also leave clues. A common one is multiple purchases from the same source showing up on sequential account statements. This could indicate that the senior has — probably unwittingly — signed up online for a monthly subscription of which he or she is not even aware.

Read the whole story at Bankrate.com.