Before Shred Day: How Long Should You Hold Onto Documents

family in front of house

 

As goals are set and matched for financial growth and freedom, there’s an addition of paperwork.  It’s not uncommon for a typical American adult to experience all or some of these moments within a year:  paying off a loan, purchasing a home, transitioning jobs, or even starting his/her own family.  

 

How does anyone keep track of the paper trail that follows?  How should someone identify what is worthy of keeping for one month from what should be locked in a safe deposit or stored on a hard drive for an unlimited amount of time?

 

There’s a general rule of thumb for specific documents that any individual can follow, so we’ve created a list of some of the most common pieces to categorize for your future sorting needs.


post-it list

1-3 Month Documents:  

 

  • Bills (electronic and/or paper)

  • Sales receipts

    • Hold on this only for as long as the return policy states-this is typically 30 days.

  • ATM deposits and withdrawals

    • Make sure these match up on monthly bank statements before shredding.



1 Year Documents:

 

  • Pay Stubs

    • It’s helpful to hold onto these to make sure it matches the end of year W2 statement.

  • Warranties

    • Some larger purchases require the online registration of the item (i.e. serial number, factory details) in order to redeem the warranty.

  • Utility bills

  • Self-employment receipts

    • Keep these receipts for travel, necessary product purchases, and larger office/work items separated from regular documents.  

 

Self-employment documents can be tricky.  Insurance companies or creditors may require storing documents longer than one year.  Small businesses or self-employed individuals should investigate further before permanently destroying any documents.

 

3-7 Years Documents:

 

  • Tax receipts and returns

  • Home purchases or sale

    • This can include major home improvement receipts.

  • Medical records

  • Receipts or cancelled checks

    • Supporting income or deductions on tax returns.

  • Long-term warranties

  • Satisfied loans



Permanent Documents to Keep:

 

  • Birth and Death certificates

    • Adoption papers

  • IDs and passports

    • Passports expire in the U.S. every 10 years for individuals 16 years or older and 5 years for anyone under 16.  Drivers licenses are state mandated.

  • Social security card

  • Mortgage documents

  • Marriage license

  • Business license

  • Wills

 

Responsibly Destroy Important, Expired Documents

 

Identity theft is a dangerous reality that comes in many forms:  from debt collection scam to  phishing for tax records.  According to Time.com, “More than 41 million Americans have been victims of identity theft.”

In order to prevent sharing personal information, like credit card statements and bank records, it’s imperative to destroy these documents in a safe, responsible way.  One option would be to utilize community shred days.  Some shredding limitations may apply to your community shred day, so make sure to call or email prior to the day of the event.

 

American Eagle Credit Union offers Free Shred Day at multiple locations twice a year in the St. Louis area.  We have an upcoming Shred Day Saturday, March 25th from 9 a.m.-noon at these following locations:  1001 Lynch Street in St. Louis, 3805 Union Rd in South County, 12395 Olive Blvd in Creve Coeur, and 2531 Hwy K in O’Fallon, MO.


How do you keep files organized and prepared for proper disposal?  


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