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.

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