Cari & Doug prepared this easy to follow list of what financial documents to keep and how long to retain them. Important information to know whether you are planning on obtaining a home loan or not.
Most loan professionals have a standard checklist they give to their clients either before their initial meeting or at the meeting detailing specific financial documents they need to put together an initial loan file. In the past we've had many clients who simply cannot find last year's W2 or even their most current paystub which makes me wonder how most people keep track of these important documents.
I don't believe that you need to hang onto every piece of paper pertinent to your finances for eternity but there are some simple guidelines you can follow to ensure you have your financial files in order so that if you do ever need them, you'll be on top of it. Following is a simple list that anyone can follow on what to keep and for how long to ensure they never have to dig and tear apart the house looking for last month's checking statement:
Keep For 1 Month:
- Credit card receipts
- Sales receipts for minor purchases (I actually keep these in a small coupon filer in my purse in case I need to return anything)
- Withdrawal and deposit slips (you can throw them out once you've reconciled these with your monthly bank statement)
Keep for 1 Year:
- Paystubs from work
- Mortgage statements
- Phone and utility bills
- Monthly bank and credit card, brokerage, mutual fund and retirement account statements
- Tax returns
- Real Estate records
- Home-Improvement records
- Receipts for major purchases (until of course the item is disposed of)
- Wills and trust documents
It is a good idea to have these items located in a file drawer or file box in separate labeled folders so that you can easily access them. Many important household documents should be kept in a safe deposit box. Check out our previous post on what should go in a safe deposit box here.
You can also print out the list above and keep it at the front of your file box/drawer so that you won't forget what to keep and for how long. Try it and you'll rest easy knowing your financial files are organized and easily accessible.