Time to Part Company

Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 3:32 AM

2013 is in full swing. Time to shed some extra pounds...of paper that is.

Most documents, just like milk, eventually expire so use our handy guides for deciding what to toss, what to keep. Your 2013 is about to get streamlined.

Before you dive into your paper piles, arm yourself with the right supplies. Invest in a box of hanging files and folders; and don't forget a brand new box of crisp, easy to read labels. Consider color-coding for maximum efficiency; label all your must-keep, never-toss items in can't-overlook-red.

Short timers: Keep for a year or less

  • Bank records:Keep deposit and ATM receipts until you reconcile them with your monthly statements. File statements until tax time, keep any you need to prove deductions; shred the rest.
  • Credit-card bills:Check them, pay them and shred them unless you need to support a tax deduction. Also keep statements for purchases of items under warranty, shred when warranty expires.
  • Current-year tax records:Keep for the year.
  • Insurance policies:Keep policies that you renew each year and shred the old one's after renewing.
  • Investment statements:Shred monthly statements after the new one arrives. Keep annual statements until you sell the investments.
  • Pay stubs:Keep the calendar year's records until you reconcile them with your annual W-2 form, and then shred them.
  • Household furnishings paperwork:Keep receipts, warranties, and instruction booklets for appliances and electronics. Toss when the warranty expires or you no longer own the item.


Depends on You: Time frame varies

  • Investment purchase confirmations:Hang on to these docs to establish your cost basis and holding period when you sell the investments; if this information appears on your annual statements, keep those instead. Once you sell the investment, shred the old statements and move the sales paperwork into this year's tax file.
  • Loan documents:Keep closing documents for mortgage, vehicle, student, and other loans in a safe-deposit box until loan is paid off. Then shred.
  • Savings bonds:Keep in a secure place until you cash them in. Or you can convert them to electronic form using the Treasury's SmartExchange program, at www.treasureydirect.gov.
  • Vehicle records:Keep purchase receipts, titles, and registration information in a safe-deposit box as long as you own the car, boat, truck, or other vehicle. Store the maintenance and repair records. Toss when you no longer own.


Seven Years: The magic number for tax documents

  • Federal and state tax returns and their supporting records.
  • Receipts, bank statements, investment statements and all paperwork with tax-related information.


The Long Haul: Essential records to be kept permanently

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce decrees
  • Social Security cards
  • Military discharge papers
  • Defined-benefit plan documents: pension-plan documents from your current and former employers.
  • Estate-planning documents such as wills, powers of attorney, health care proxy.
  • Life-insurance policies
  • Safe-deposit box inventory: Note the location of the box and your keys, and keep a list of what you have in it.


Keep in mind that if you've gone paperless--storing photos, bank statements and even scanned copies of vital records on your computer--your challenge lies not in purging physical clutter but in ensuring that your files are adequately backed up. Use an external hard drive or a cloud computing storage company to back up your files remotely.



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About Beyond Folders™

Beyond FoldersTM is written by a team of Pendaflex associates passionate about time management, communications, productivity and workplace organization.  Believing in  "continuous improvement" on both a personal and professional level, they share their unique perspectives on subjects of common interest to our readers.

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