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Storing Important Documents

Personal Documents
Store personal documents in a secure place, such as a fire-safe box at home. And remember, the following items should be kept indefinitely:

• Birth/death certificates
• Passports
• Wills
• Marriage certificates/divorce decrees
• Social Security cards
• Adoption and custody papers
• Citizen and naturalization papers
• Military documents
• Diplomas/transcripts

Financial Documents
The following documents should be kept in either a safe deposit box or locked filing cabinet at home:

• Tax returns and supporting documents: Keep forever, in case one day you are audited.
• Credit card statements: Store for one month, unless needed for tax season; then keep for one year. You can also access statements online.
• Retirement savings statements: Keep monthly statements until year-end statement arrives. Keep year-end statement for at least six years.
• IRA contributions: Store permanently to prove you have paid taxes on this money.
• Stocks, bonds and security statements: Keep for six years after you sell them.
• Receipts: Store until your monthly statement arrives, or longer if item is of value or under warranty.
• Paycheck stubs: Keep one year, until you receive your W-2.
• Real estate records: Keep all records of purchase, remodeling and selling indefinitely.
• Medical records: Store for one year unless deducting for taxes, then keep for six years.
• W-2 forms: Keep until you start claiming Social Security.

Organizing Tips
With identity theft always an issue, you may want to consider investing in a paper shredder. Over 40 percent of identity theft criminals know their victims personally. Take a step toward protecting yourself by properly destroying important documents. Shred documents on a monthly or quarterly basis.

• Put hard-to-replace documents in a water-tight container and/or fire-safe box. Place these records in a lockable cabinet.
• Create a folder for receipts and place in an easy-to-reach spot. At the end of every week, organize your receipts, either by date or type of purchase. When you receive a statement, check for inconsistencies, toss your receipts and start again.