What to keep and what to toss

How does clutter begin? A junk drawer with old batteries, gum and receipts? A desk full of abandoned paperwork? Pretty soon your dining room is looking like a thrift store with clutter all over the place, and you’re not even counting the garage or the attic!

The problem with clutter in your life is that it reduces your effectiveness. It gets in your way, impedes free movement, blocks progress and essentially keeps you from living your life at 100%

Financial clutter is especially troublesome. Financial clutter can block your progress toward a clear financial path, and the cost can be tremendous if it keeps you from paying bills on time or leaves you vulnerable to identity theft. When you’re ready to clear the financial clutter, refer to these guidelines to help you decide what to keep and what to toss:

  • Keep sales receipts until the product warranty expires or until the return/exchange period expires. (If you need sales receipts for tax purposes, keep them for three years).
  • Keep ATM printouts for one month, or until you balance your checkbook. Then they may be thrown away.
  • Keep paycheck stubs until you have compared them to your W2s and annual social security statement (usually one year).
  • Keep paid utility bills for one year unless you’re using them for tax purposes (deductions for a home office, etc.). In that case you need to keep them for three years.
  • Keep cancelled checks for one year unless you’re using them for tax purposes. In that case you’ll need to keep them for three years.
  • Keep credit card receipts for one year unless you’re using them for tax purposes. In that case you’ll need to keep them for three years.
  • Keep bank statements for one year unless you’re using them for tax purposes. In that case you’ll need to keep them for three years. Keep quarterly investment statements until you receive your annual statement (usually one year).
  • Keep income tax returns for at least three years (six if you have multiple sources of income).
  • Keep paid medical bills and cancelled insurance policies for three years.
  • Keep records of selling a house for three years as documentation for Capital Gains Tax.
  • Keep records of selling stock for three years as documentation for Capital Gains Tax. Keep annual investment statements for three years after you sell your investment.
  • Keep records of satisfied loans for seven years.
  • Keep contracts as long as they remain active.
  • Keep insurance documents as long as they remain active.
  • Keep stock certificates as long as they remain active.
  • Keep property records as long as they remain active.
  • Keep stock records as long as they remain active.
  • Keep records of pension and retirement plans as long as they remain active.
  • Keep marriage licenses forever.
  • Keep birth certificates forever.
  • Keep wills forever.
  • Keep adoption papers forever.
  • Keep death certificates forever.
  • Keep records of paid mortgages forever.

For more on clearing the clutter from your life, download the free New Beginnings eBook.

 

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.