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Off Topic :
What documents/papers do you save and for how long - clutter clearing

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 number4 (original poster member #62204) posted at 9:45 PM on Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

I am pretty good at Marie Condo'ing my life; we've moved twice in the last six years, one cross-country. So I've gotten rid of a lot of stuff and feel pretty satisfied with my progress in that area.

But I really have a problem with all of my paperwork. I do try to keep up with shredding it, but I think some of the stuff I have can be destroyed. I mean, we have paperwork from the sale of our house six years ago, and we've lived in two different homes since. That's just an example. I have over ten years of tax returns, statements from financial institutions (credit union, bank accounts that were closed years ago, investments we no longer have, etc.). I know the smart thing would be do scan all of this stuff and save it that way, then shred the hard copies, but that really seems overwhelming. I'd have to buy a dedicated scanner to do that, too.

Does anyone have a responsible/reputable published guideline as to what to keep and what to save? We will be moving across country again later this year, and I'd like to tackle this task, slowly over time so that it's done before we move.

Me: BWHim: WHMarried - 30+ yearsTwo adult daughters1st affair: 2005-20072nd-4th affairs: 2016-2017Many assessments/polygraph: no sex addictionStatus: R

posts: 1308   ·   registered: Jan. 10th, 2018   ·   location: New England
id 8776679
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Superesse ( member #60731) posted at 10:23 PM on Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

I seem to recall Suzy Orme the financial advisor may have written something about this. I believe 7 years for tax returns is the law. I'm bad about keeping things, too, because it's just "inertia" and it's easy to tell ourselves "what if we need it after the statute of limitations is up?" If you feel certain from your accountant that these accounts wouldn't be called upon for anything, it would be easier to start the process!

posts: 2026   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8776681
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ChewedMeUp ( member #8008) posted at 2:46 PM on Thursday, February 9th, 2023

At work, I deal with financial donations. Per our auditors, we’re required to have 8 years of documentation of donations on hand – current plus 7 completed. We’re not required to keep the paper and we do scan everything, but keep the paper just in case. And we’re lazy about destroying things in a timely fashion, so we’ve probably got closer to 10 years stored in boxes. When we have our annual audit, we pass the digital backup along to the auditors – if it’s not already digitized, they require that we scan it to give it to them. Since we went to this system, our paper backup hasn’t been touched in years once it’s filed after scanning.

We use desktop ScanSnap machines for this, and they’re great. Not cheap, but super reliable. Two of the three of us that have scanners, our scanners are more than 10 years old, scanning thousands of pages a year, and still kicking just fine. (The third was a new position added a couple of years ago, and thus a third scanner purchased, none have died.)

I’ve started doing the same to my personal paperwork – bring things in to work to scan in my off time, save them up to my google drive, and dump them into the shred bin. But it definitely is time-consuming, so I’ve also gone to paperless bank statements and such, that I can simply download and tuck the files away. Far less paper to deal with at home these days.

BS - over 40
DivorcED, finally.
2 Kids

posts: 657   ·   registered: Aug. 26th, 2005   ·   location: Baltimore, MD
id 8776771
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grubs ( member #77165) posted at 5:46 PM on Thursday, February 9th, 2023

That was my xmas break task at home as we are moving in the summer. 23 years worth. My ex handled bills and such and she kept everything on paper. Printed out electronic bills. I went paperless for almost everything so much of it wasn't newer than 12 years. I had a two drawer lateral filled. Ended up buying a bigger shredder as the one we had was only rated for 20 minutes continuous. Output filled our 90-gallon trashcan.
7 years for taxes. Google personal record retention and it will give you what you are looking for as many accounting firms post that. Basics are IRS has 3 years to audit your returns so that is the base period. If IRS chooses to audit you and find "significant" issues they can go back 6 years so anything related to taxes you should keep 7 years. The big gotcha is purchase price for investments subject to capital gains.(not sheltered stocks, bonds, and real estate). You have to keep those records from date of sale (not purchase) plus tax lookback. The following uses 3, but I'd be more comfortable with 7. The only other factor is proof of purchase for warranty terms on purchased items. Most of 36-90 days, maybe a year. If you have something that comes with a lifetime warranty, you want to tag and keep that receipt.

Document Retention Period
Bank statements: Keep 3 years unless needed for tax records.
Cancelled Checks: Keep 3 years unless needed for tax records.
Charitable Contributions: Keep with applicable tax return.
Credit Purchase Receipts: Discard after purchase appears on credit card statement if not needed for warranties, merchandise return or taxes.
Credit Card Statements: Keep 3 years.
Employee Business Expense Records: Keep with applicable tax return.
Health Insurance Policies: Keep until policy expires, lapses, or is replaced.
Home & Property Insurance: Keep until policy expires, lapses, or is replaced.
Income Tax Return and Records: Permanently.
Investment Annual Statements and 1099’s: Keep with applicable tax return.
Investment Sale and Purchase Confirmation Records: Dispose of sale confirmation records when the transactions are correctly reflected on the monthly statement. Keep purchase confirmation records 3 years after investment is sold as evidence of cost.
Life Insurance: Keep until there is no chance of reinstatement. Premium receipts may be discarded when notices reflect payment.
Medical Records: Permanently.
Medical Expense Records: Keep with applicable tax return if deducted on tax return.
Military Papers: Permanently (may be required for possible veteran’s benefits).
Individual Retirement Account Records: Permanently.
Passports: Until expiration.
Pay Stubs: One year. Discard all but final, cumulative pay stubs for the year.
Personal Certificates (Birth/Death, Marriage/Divorce, Religious Ceremonies): Permanently.
Real Estate Documents: Keep 3-6 years after property has been disposed of and taxes have been paid
Residential Records (Copies of purchase related documents, annual mortgage statements, receipts for
improvements and copies of rental leases/receipts.): Indefinitely.
Retirement Plan Statements: Keep 3-6 years. Keep year end statements permanently.
Social Security Statements: Discard as you receive current records of payments into the Social Security System.
Warranties and Receipts: Discard warranties when they are clearly expired. Use your judgment when discarding receipts.
Will: Keep current Will permanently. Keep until rendered obsolete (by a new version).

posts: 1571   ·   registered: Jan. 21st, 2021
id 8776817
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 number4 (original poster member #62204) posted at 1:58 AM on Saturday, February 11th, 2023

Wow, Grubs! You have gone above and beyond what I expected from any responses. This is such incredibly helpful information!

There are a couple of gray areas, such as bank statements (of which I have more than three years worth) - what if your bank statements are available online? Not that I'm asking you to answer it, but just something that popped out at me.

This really gives me a great starting point - maybe I'll get started this weekend. Going to print this list off, and put it in our office so I can tackle it a little bit at a time.

Thanks again!

Me: BWHim: WHMarried - 30+ yearsTwo adult daughters1st affair: 2005-20072nd-4th affairs: 2016-2017Many assessments/polygraph: no sex addictionStatus: R

posts: 1308   ·   registered: Jan. 10th, 2018   ·   location: New England
id 8777217
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Superesse ( member #60731) posted at 9:16 PM on Saturday, February 11th, 2023

Public Service Award to Grubs!!

WOW! I'm also going to print this off, becaus here it all is in a nice list! You've included a couple of categories nobody else ever mentions! 🙂🙂

Here is one little condition that perhaps some of us had to consider while living in the Limbo of post-D-Day married life: did you ever look at documents and think "Would this be 'helpful' to show a Court of law, someday...?" The situation I've lived through led to an accumulation of a small mountain of papers, beyond what would legally be the time limit for hanging on to them.

We also learned that, contrary to your primary residence, where your expenses for ordinary repairs don't count against your capital gain when you sell, if the house is not your primary residence, and qualifies as an investment activity rather than as your second home, you can count those expenses! When we finally sold the old home I'd renovated, I went back and pulled tickets out of brown paper bags and organized 25 years worth of often very faded register tapes and receipts for every can of paint and tube of caulk I'd ever bought. Took me almost a week, but all are now filed chronologically in a banker's box waiting for the years to pass to dispose of it!

Grubs, that was so helpful. Your Christmas project bore fruit you shared with others!

[This message edited by Superesse at 9:20 PM, Saturday, February 11th]

posts: 2026   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8777335
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somanyyears ( member #26970) posted at 4:02 PM on Sunday, February 19th, 2023

..so....are any of them marked "CLASSIFIED" ??? laugh

smy shocked

trust no other human- love only your pets. Reconciled I think!Me 76 Her 72 Married 51 yrs. 18 yr LTA with bff/lawyer. Little fucker died at 57.Brain tumour!

posts: 6045   ·   registered: Dec. 29th, 2009   ·   location: Ontario Canada
id 8778495
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 number4 (original poster member #62204) posted at 8:09 PM on Sunday, February 19th, 2023

^^^^^ LOL

Me: BWHim: WHMarried - 30+ yearsTwo adult daughters1st affair: 2005-20072nd-4th affairs: 2016-2017Many assessments/polygraph: no sex addictionStatus: R

posts: 1308   ·   registered: Jan. 10th, 2018   ·   location: New England
id 8778511
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 number4 (original poster member #62204) posted at 12:05 AM on Saturday, March 11th, 2023

So I made some great headway a couple of weeks ago, and shredded probably enough to fill four 13-gallon size garbage bags. My files are so much easier to access now that they're not crammed into each other in the filing cabinet. Talk about immediate gratification.

Still have a ways to go - the next thing I should probably do is go through all of our files where we keep owner's manuals, etc. Yes, we still access those occasionally, so it's hard to throw out, even if I know I could find them online. But I'm sure I have manuals in there for things we no longer own. 🤔

Me: BWHim: WHMarried - 30+ yearsTwo adult daughters1st affair: 2005-20072nd-4th affairs: 2016-2017Many assessments/polygraph: no sex addictionStatus: R

posts: 1308   ·   registered: Jan. 10th, 2018   ·   location: New England
id 8781666
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PricklePatch ( member #34041) posted at 5:19 AM on Saturday, March 11th, 2023

We had to gather 5 years worth of bank statements for a special needs trust. My husband is financial guardian for a relative.

BS Fwh

posts: 3267   ·   registered: Nov. 28th, 2011
id 8781685
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Gottagetthrough ( member #27325) posted at 1:54 PM on Sunday, March 26th, 2023

love grubs’ post telling alll the info. thanks grubs!!

i also have kids homeschool materials. i am awful abiut tossing school stuff, esp since kid 2 has learning challenges (adhd a d dysgraphia) so looking back throught the years is necessary sometimes for testing etc

worst part is that i actually have had a few occasions where something i needed was super old and would have been tossed if i wasnt a paper hoarder. it just solidifies in my nind, ok!
kepp it all!


i have 2 full 4 ft talll filing cabinets that have soooo much junk.

posts: 3835   ·   registered: Jan. 22nd, 2010
id 8784167
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BearlyBreathing ( member #55075) posted at 7:13 PM on Sunday, March 26th, 2023

Great useful post.
One thing I learned the hard way: if you lose your home to a disaster, it is VERY helpful to have records of what you own.
A video where you open all drawers and closets is helpful, but also a list of things you have.(Keep elsewhere or on the cloud).
For insurance you do actually have to itemize EVERY item you own with cost, age, current value, etc. And then you have to fight the insurance company’s automatic (and non-transparent) depreciation. So when you have big ticket items, keep a virtual list to make it easier in the event of a disaster. The video will help with the smaller items, but a list is helpful for the big ones. The applies to home finishings, too— what type of tile or crown molding or whatever. Some credit card companies (American Express I think is one) keep records forever, but others do not. Worth thinking about when buying big items.

(An example of how the insurance thing works: You say you have a four-slot toaster. They will value as the cheapest one at Walmart for $14 unless you can detail that you bought the more expensive one at $90 that matched you decor. Seems small, but when it happens to every item, it really adds up.)

I hope you never need it, but we all see on the news that this does happen all over the country whether tornado, hurricane, mudslide, flood, earthquake or wildfire.

(You all have inspired me to clean up my files— I downloaded the list and am using that as a starting point).

Me: BS 55 (49 on d-day)Him: WH. 64. D-Day 8/15/2016 LTA. Kinda liking my new life :-)

**horrible typist, lots of edits to correct. :-/ **

posts: 5918   ·   registered: Sep. 10th, 2016   ·   location: Northern CA
id 8784204
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