One of the most common problems I come across when helping clients go through their paperwork is keeping items because they’re unsure of when it’s time to let documents go. You don’t need all paperwork forever! For any specific questions it’s best to consult your CPA or attorney, but I have general rules you can follow to organize financial paperwork.
“Forever” documents should be kept your entire lifetime, and in some cases passed on to any beneficiaries you have. These are things like your social security card and your birth certificate. Keep these documents in a safe place so they can’t be lost or tampered with. Create backups online or in a separate location in case of a natural disaster or fire.
“Permanent” documents are kept for the life of the item they’re for. These are things like documentation related to stocks and shares. Once you let go of an item, there’s no reason to keep its paperwork! Make paperwork a part of your overall decluttering process–if your vacuum is ready to donate, look around for any paperwork associated with it and let that go too.
“Temporary” documents, like paperwork for your will and trusts (which change when necessary), should be kept for the life of the agreement, or if you want to be able to refer to it later. Once you’ve reconciled your grocery receipts, you can go ahead and recycle them.
Personal and Business
We have a handy reference sheet that highlights specific items and how long you need to keep them.
Click the picture to download.
Do you have any questions about how to organize financial paperwork? Leave a comment below! I like to find solutions to new sticking points.