What to Keep, What to Toss

Financial experts say that getting rid of outdated sensitive papers is a good first step in protecting yourself from identity theft. Leaving sensitive papers where someone can find them easily in your home is an invitation to fraud.

But some of us may not be sure which papers we should keep and which we should shred. BBB has developed nine tips to help you decide which papers to discard.

  1. Tax returns and supporting documents should be kept for eight years. Supporting documents may include charitable donation receipts, medical bills and property tax records, for example.

  2. Records on contributions to individual retirement accounts should be kept permanently.

  3. Retirement and savings plan statements should be kept from one year to permanently. Keep the monthly or quarterly statements until the end of the year, then keep the year-end statement and shred the others.

  4. Brokerage statements should be kept until you sell the securities. Sale and basis records should be kept with tax returns for eight years.

  5. Insurance policies should be kept for the life of the policy.

  6. Copies of bills should be kept until you have a canceled check or other confirmation that the bill has been paid. If they relate to taxes, they should be kept for eight years.

  7. Keep credit card receipts until you get the monthly statement, then shred receipts if the statements match. Statements should be kept for eight years if they include tax-related expenses.

  8. Paycheck stubs should be kept until you get your W-2 form. If the form matches your stubs, shred the stubs unless there’s other information you need for taxes, such as union dues paid, health insurance costs or retirement plan contributions. Consider keeping the year’s final stub for seven years or permanently.

  9. House records – such as purchase price and the cost of permanent improvements – should be kept permanently, or until seven years after you sell the house.

Start With Trust. For more BBB news and consumer tips, visit bbb.org.

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