How Long Should I Keep
Important Records?

Tax time is a great opportunity to get important papers organized. But, do you know what to shred and what to keep? Mountain America Credit Union’s got you covered. Read on for tips to get organized.
There are plenty of great reasons to get all of your documents in order. Not the least of which is that this process helps to reduce your anxiety. This is also a good time to set up a 2017 file. That way, important receipts or documents that you collect during the year can be safely filed away. If this file isn’t set aside, you know what will happen—you’ll throw it in a “safe place” and tell yourself you’ll get to it later. Then, when that doesn’t happen, you’ll have to hunt down all of the places where you decided to stash various documents. Talk about anxiety!


Don’t worry if your documents are both paper and electronic, these steps can be applied to both. If you are really organized, after you have whittled down your paper pile, make all of your documents electronic by scanning them and shredding the paper.
Let’s get started!
First, invest in a durable shredder, preferably a cross-cut or confetti model.
Next, set up four stations into which you can divide your documents: papers that you need to keep for the calendar year or less; papers that can be destroyed when you no longer own the items they cover; tax records; and papers to keep indefinitely. For electronic files, set up four folders on your desktop and simply drag and drop.

Keep for less than a year

ATM, deposit and credit card receipts—Keep these until you reconcile the charges or deposits with your monthly statements. Once you’ve done that, they can be shredded—yes, they need to be shredded to avoid ID theft—unless you need them to support your tax return.
Insurance policies and investment statements—Keep these until you receive new ones. Shred the outdated statements.

Keep for a year or more

Loan documents, vehicle titles, investment purchase confirmations—Loan documents need to be kept until the loan is paid off. Vehicle titles and investment purchase confirmations should be kept until those items are sold.
Home improvement receipts—These can help define the value of your home. Keep them until you sell.

Keep for seven years

Tax returns—The government has six years after you file your tax return to collect the tax or start legal proceedings. So… seven years, just in case.
Medical records—Keep any receipts you paid using a health savings or flexible spending account to show that the funds were spent on qualified medical expenses in case the IRS audits those accounts.

Keep forever

Essential records—This includes, but is not limited to: birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, Social Security cards, certificates of authenticity and military discharge papers. Also keep any defined-benefit plan documents, estate planning documents, life insurance policies and an inventory of your home’s contents—making an insurance claim is so much easier with this information. It is also a good idea to keep a detailed inventory of your bank safe deposit box and share a copy with your executor or attorney.


For most of your paper documents, a fire-proof safe is the best way to keep them secure. Electronic documents need to be placed in a password-protected or encrypted file.
For any papers that can’t be replaced easily, invest in a safe deposit box.
The experts at Mountain America can help you with any of your questions about how long you should keep financial documents. Give us a call!

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