Keeping track of your bills, tax documents, receipts and more, it is easy to get overwhelmed. With a few simple tips, you will manage that endless stream of financial mail.
What you need to keep
If your employer keeps a history of your paystubs electronically, opt into electronic paystubs and skip the paperwork. If your employer does not, you will need to keep your paper copy till your taxes are filed. It is important to keep ensuring you can double check your tax documents against your paystubs to ensure there are no errors.
If you have an investment, keep the paperwork, period. If you sell the investment, keep the paperwork at least for three to four years after your taxes have been filed. Remember, claim your gains or losses on those taxes. If you get audited, it is important to have supporting documentation to back up your tax return. If these gains and losses are available electronically, let the paper copies go and shred them.
Tax returns are required to be kept for at least 3 years from filing the return. If you happened to unreported your income by 25% or more, it can be up to 7. Best way to avoid this is to be honest with your tax return. If you are not sure, keep 7 years just in case. Be sure to keep evidence of all tax deductions as well to back up those claims just as long.
Keep all documents you get at closing for the length of the mortgage. Statements are not as important if they are available online.
This is tough since contracts vary. If you are in a contract, keep all documentation and file all supporting documents away. If the contract is over, you might need to keep a copy up to 7 years depending on the contract. For contracts such as landlord agreements, you may be required to keep all documentation up to 6 or 7 years. If you are not sure, seek legal advice.
If you have a large purchase that has a manufacture warranty, keep the purchase documentation. For example, if you bought a washer and the washer breaks after 2 years, the warranty might cover the repair so keep records of the purchase, installation and any other documentation.
What to Shred
Non Tax Applicable Bills
If your bill receipt is not needed for tax reasons, shred the bill and free up drawer space. If tax applicable, you will need to keep documentation as long as you need the tax records.
Junk mail is junk. If junk mail does not contain personal data, recycle the mail. The exception here is pre-approved credit card applications. Best to shred those to prevent identity theft.
Your old computer even after deleting sensitive files has your sensitive information. The best way to destroy your hard drive, flash drives, etc is to destroy the hard drives. Yes, that means physically get a hammer and destroy the device. Another way is to use a power drill and destroy the computer drives that way. Either way, destroy the hard drives. Once they are destroyed, dispose of the equipment properly. No need to destroy the rest of the computer and donate or dispose of it.
Here is the rule I follow, if I need the paperwork for tax reasons or future reference, keep it. If the mail does not meet any of these criteria, shred it.