Mar 14 2014, 11:02am CDT | by Forbes
by Kate Ashford
This post originally appeared on LearnVest.
Come tax time, we’re probably all digging through files that have been gathering dust for years: old tax returns, utility bills, credit card statements. And it happens to coincide with that time of year that brings spring-cleaning.
What better time to purge?
But then there are nagging questions: Which financial documents should I keep—and what can I dispose of? Do I need to shred, so as not to lure identity thieves?
Fear not. The suggested rules for which financial documents you should keep aren’t crazy and they aren’t written in microscopic print. We’ve got them all right here.
And there’s an even better reason to consider tackling this to-do: According to a poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, nearly one in four Americans say they’ve either lost or forgotten about an important financial document, and only 40 percent think they could locate an important document at a moment’s notice.
First, let us offer you a potential solution to that lost-doc feeling of panic: LearnVest’s Doc Vault, available to all of our premium members. There you can securely upload all of your most important financial documents, see which crucial forms you’re missing and keep them safe until the next time you need them in a hurry.
In the meantime, here are our handy suggestions for what to upload and what to dispose of:
Trash in a Few Days:
RELATED: 5 Easy Steps to Life Without Paper
Trash After 1 Month:
Trash After 1 Year:
RELATED: Your Guide to Tax Forms
Trash After 7 Years:
What You Can’t Keep in the Cloud:
There are many papers you can scan and upload to a secure location, trashing the original. That’s not the case for these items. You should consider making a copy of these documents to keep at home and keep the original in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or with a trusted relative. (Make sure the safety deposit box can be accessed easily in the event of your death.) The exception: You probably want to keep your passport on hand in case you need it in a hurry.
What to Shred:
Believe it or not, the answer is not “everything.” “People in general try to properly destroy or shred way too much,” says Darla DeMorrow, a professional organizer and owner of HeartWork Organizing, LLC in Pennsylvania. “My litmus test is if it has your Social Security number or a financial account number, you want to make sure you shred that.” If you have too much shreddable material to reasonably do it yourself, watch for a community shredding event in your area, or go to a FedEx office where you can shred for 79 cents per pound!
RELATED: Spring Clean Your Finances: 5 Tips From Money Pros/>
How to Delete Important Files:
You’re not going to like this—you really can’t delete files completely. “It is impossible and it’s getting harder,” DeMorrow says. When you decommission a computer, make sure you remove the hard drive and destroy it. That means putting holes in it or taking it to a company that shreds hard drives—going at it with a hammer in your driveway isn’t going to do the trick. “The best way to destroy a hard drive is to take it to somebody who has a drill press, and literally put four to 10 holes in it,” DeMorrow says. “You have to make that disk nonreadable.”/>/>
LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc. that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. Unless specifically identified as such, the people interviewed in this piece are neither clients, employees nor affiliates of LearnVest Planning Services, and the views expressed are their own. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.
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