As a professional financial organizer and daily money manager, I know what happens when people take on too much change at once. Meltdowns happen. That is why I am taking baby steps on my journey to conquer the highly-organized-yet-devastatingly-large mountain of files in my office. Though it is sure to be frustrating at first, I am going to stick to my guns and do the right thing: I’m going paperless.
If you are also considering making the switch, you might find yourself feeling very uneasy throwing certain documents into the shredder. If you do feel that you need to save things going forward, easy-to-use scanners are available at reasonable prices.
Here is a brief list of some documents, and what to do with them:
Bank statements are not necessary to archive since most banks allow you to download statements for up to seven years.
Brokerage statements should be kept until you sell the securities.
Capital expenses: Keep the invoice for any major purchases for your home or your condo for as long as you own the property, for depreciation purposes.
Charities thank donors with written old-fashioned letters of appreciation. Keep these together with the tax returns for the corresponding year.
Credit card statements do not need to be retained unless there is a charitable contribution included or if you have medical expenses that you itemize on your taxes.
Insurance policies can be discarded when a new one is issued.
Legal documents: Birth certificate, marriage license, divorce decree, will, living wills, etc. should kept permanently in a safety deposit box or other safe place.
Pay stubs should be retained for a year or until you receive your 1099 or W2.
Phone and utility bills are not necessary to keep unless they are for your business.
Retirement accounts: Keep your IRA, SEP and 401K contributions permanently.
Small businesses should keep a log of their purchases and archive that along with the tax return of the corresponding year.
Vendors’ monthly statements do not need to be retained.
A good rule of thumb is that if an item appears on your tax return, you should hold on to the receipt for seven years.
I do not yet know where my paperless journey will lead…paperless nirvana? More likely it will lead to the new office we’re moving to next month! I’m bound to learn a thing or two along the way, and I’ll be sure to write about them here…
How do you handle altitude sickness when climbing your mountain of paper? Are you ready to go paperless?
Judith Heft, Principal, Judith Heft & Associates is a personal financial concierge with offices in Greenwich and Stamford. She can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 203-978-1858.