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To Shred or Keep?

Part of living well is protecting yourself from identity theft. Identity theft is a multibillion-dollar industry, and document shredding is an important way to prevent it and safely dispose of confidential information.

One of the most common questions is how long you should keep an item. Try categorizing documents that you should keep forever, for a while, or most recent.

Keep forever

  • Permanent records of major financial events such as legal filings or inheritances
  • Birth and death certificate
  • Social Security card or Passports
  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce decree

Keep for a while

7 years: Supporting tax documentation

A good rule of thumb on how long to keep documents: If a document verifies a piece of information on your tax return, you should store it for at least seven years. This rule applies to W-2 and 1099 forms, tuition payments and charitable donation receipts.

1 year: Regular statements, pay stubs

Keep either a digital or hard copy of the past years’ worth of your monthly bank and credit card statements. You should also hold on to pay stubs so that you can use them to verify the accuracy of your W-2 form when tax season arrives. If a statement shows a transaction that was used for taxes or business expenses, is a medical expense, home improvements, or major purchase, keep for seven years.

Keep most recent 

Utility bills, deposit and withdrawal records

  • Utility, cable and cell phone bills can be disposed of as soon as payment is applied.
  • Withdrawal and deposit slips can be shredded after they are verified on monthly statement.
  • Mutual fund and retirement accounts (401(k), 403(b), IRA, ROTH IRA, etc.) should be shredded as new ones arrive. Make sure to keep evidence of IRA contributions until you withdraw money. Annual statements should be kept for seven years.
  • Credit card statements, unless it’s for tax/business or proof of purchase, shred after 45 days.

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