What to Shred

Keeping good personal records is helpful to many life situations. But to make sure that your papers don't take up too much space, consider this list of tips.

Things you can shred and get rid of:

  • Annual reports for investments. Get them online if needed.
  • ATM or credit card receipts not needed for tax purposes. Reconcile your receipts with your statements, then save only the monthly statements – or access the statements online.
  • Expired insurance policies.
  • Expired warranties.
  • Monthly or quarterly 401(k) statements. Make sure they are correct, then keep only the year-end statements. Better yet, access them online.
  • Most paycheck stubs – keep only the last one of each year.
  • Tax return documentation older than seven years, unless it deals with a taxable investment or asset that you still own.
  • Deposit slips. As soon as you check them against your monthly statement, shred them.
  • Household bills older than one year. For services that you have cancelled, keep the final bill and any proof of its payment.
  • Old wills, trust and powers of attorney that have been replaced by newer versions.

Things to keep:

  • Paperwork concerning vehicles you still own – registrations, maintenance and repair receipts, warranties, owner’s manuals, titles.
  • Credit card statements. You need to have seven years’ worth of credit card statements to support your tax returns. Consider accessing yours online rather than keeping paper copies.
  • Receipts for the purchase of items of value.
  • Paperwork showing that you have paid off a loan.
  • Mortgage paperwork or your lease agreement if you rent your home.
  • Home improvement and repair records.
  • Records of taxable investments – you want a record of how much you initially paid for the investment. Keep statements for as long as you own the investment, plus seven years after you sell it.
  • Records of IRA contributions.
  • Tax returns. You can toss supporting documentation after seven years but keep the returns.
  • Vital records such as birth and death certificates, adoption papers, marriage licenses, military service papers and divorce decrees.
  • Wills, powers of attorney and other legal documents.
  • Savings bonds, certificates of deposit, securities certificates and the like.
  • Current insurance policies.
  • Family health records.
  • Education records.