|Where to Store Documents|
|Emergency Kit||Filing Cabinet|
|Birth/death certificates||Tax returns|
|Social Security cards||Credit card statements|
|Emergency contact information (insurance agents, doctors, family)||Retirement savings statements|
|Marriage certificates/divorce decrees||Investment records|
|Copies of your driver’s license, green card, and other identification cards||Paycheck stubs|
|Copies of lifesaving prescriptions (like insulin, asthma inhalers, etc.)||Bank statements|
|List of bank account and credit card account numbers||Warranty/rebate documentation|
|Inventory of household goods||Legal documents|
|How Long to Keep Documents|
|Document||Length of Time|
|Tax documents||Keep tax returns, as well as supporting documents like W-2 forms, receipts, and real estate closing statements for seven years. The IRS may audit you within three years if it suspects good-faith errors; six years if it believes you underreported your income by at least 25%; and unlimited time if you did not file a return or filed a fraudulent one.|
|Investment records||Keep as long as you own the securities, plus another seven years [Rich]. You’ll need them to prove capital gains and losses.|
|Bank statements||One month. You just need these long enough to check the accuracy of the transactions [Williams]. Unless the statement is your only record for a tax-related transaction, there’s no need to keep them longer. Plus, your bank will have them available online.|
|Retirement plan statements||Most, one year, for tax purposes [Rich]. Keep Roth IRA statements until you retire, to prove you already paid tax on your contributions [Rich].|
|Credit card statements||Shred immediately after checking the accuracy of the transactions [Williams]. These documents are a prime source for identity theft. Unless the statement is your only record for a tax-related transaction, there’s no need to keep them longer. Plus, your issuer will have them available online.|
|Paychecks||One year, until you receive your W-2 [Rich].|
|Bills||One year, for tax purposes [Rich].|
|W-2 forms||Until you begin claiming Social Security. They’re the best estimate of your earnings and entitlements.|
- Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer group on privacy and identity theft issues. Web: privacyrights.org. Office phone: 619-298-3396.
- Alicia Rockmore, co-founder of Buttoned Up, Inc., a company that provides organizational tips and tools. Web: getbuttonedup.com. Office phone: 734-477-5020.
- Kate Williams, vice president of financial literacy for Money Management International, which oversees the Consumer Credit Counseling Service agencies. Web: moneymanagement.org. Office phone:1-800-698-6512.
- Sharon Rich, a fee-only financial planner based in Belmont, Mass., who specializes in women and families. Web: womoney.com. Office phone: 617-489-3601.
- IRS Publication 552; Recordkeeping for Individuals. Web: irs.gov.
- Identity Theft Resource Center report; The Aftermath 2006. Web: idtheftcenter.org.
- American Red Cross publication, Disaster Supplies Kit. Web: redcross.org.