Here’s a helpful guide to items that you should get rid of and those things you should store, whether electronically or original.

 When to Toss
Junk Mail Immediately
Receipts (every receipt that is not proof-of-purchase for currently owned items or tax-related) Immediately; Shred if credit card numbers or other identifying information printed
Bank, Credit Card, & Investment Statements Shred after three (3) years; scan before shredding if tax-related
Canceled checks, ATM & Deposit receipts Shred after you’ve verified them on your next statement; scan before shredding if tax-related
Pay Stubs Shred once you’ve received your W-9s or W-2s
Loan Contracts Shred after you pay off the loan; scan before shredding if tax-related
Car & Home Repairs If not passed along to next owner, shred documents from previously owned cars & homes.
Membership Documents Shred after you are no longer an active member.
Rental Contracts Shred six (6) months after contract expires.
Service Contracts & Utility statements Shred after contract expires; scan before shredding if tax-related
Warranties Toss after property is disposed; shred if identifiable information is included.
Pet Medical Records Keep only living pets records of major events


Things to Scan before Shredding:

These are documents where scanned versions will suffice for future needs.

  • W2s + documents used in tax filings (anything connected to itemized deductions, student loan payments reports, etc)
  • Annual investment reports
  • Pension documents
  • Social Security statements

Things to Store Securely

These are documents where having the original is often required.

  • Titles & Deed Records to cars and other properties as long as you own them.
  • Estate Documents: wills, trusts, insurance policies, powers of attorney, health proxies, and other end-of-life documents
  • Loan & Mortgage Paid-in-full statements
  • Military Service Records
  • Medical Records
  • State-issued Vital Certificates: marriage, divorce, birth, and death

Secure storage should be in a locked fire-proof cabinet approved for temperatures above 450 degrees for 60 minutes. Or, take advantage of a River City safe deposit box.

Still Not Sure?

Here are two questions to ask yourself if a piece of paper doesn’t fit cleanly in one of the categories above:

  1. Will I need this information in the future?
  2. Will I have a difficult time getting this information again if I need it?
  3. Will keeping this document make things easier for someone else to manage my affairs or settle my estate?

If you still feel unsure, ask your accountant, attorney, or other trusted advisor.

This information was collected from the following financial and tax resources: