Monday, July 9, 2007

How Long Should I Keep My Bank Statements?

I keep all of my files in labeled folders in one of those file box contraptions. If you have a job, you're in school, or you have some credit cards or similar accounts, I recommend getting yourself one of these to keep everything straight. I've had something like this for years now and i put all of my important papers in there. Right now I have folders for my car (title, bill of sale, maintenance records etc...), my wife's car, my auto insurance, my renter's insurance, my school records (transcripts etc...), a big file on my current job info, a smaller file with my previous job info (pay stubs, offer letters etc...), my last seven tax returns, my phone bill, my cable bill, my gas and electric bill, my wife's employment records, my retirement accounts, my bank accounts, and my investment account. Plus a few "misc" folders for random things. I also keep a big fat manilla envelope stuffed with reciepts for higher priced merchandise and manuals/warranty info.

I went to take the box out from under my desk the other day and realized that I could barely lift it. I realized that I needed to take two drastic steps. First, work out more, and second, clean out that box. I haven't been very good at getting rid of old stuff, so I reviewed Bankrate.com's list of what financial records to keep, and how long to keep them. I realized that I could shred a bunch of my old bank statements, phone bills, expired auto insurance policies and things like that, so I fired up one of my favorite machines, the Fellowes PowerShred I bought a few months ago and reviewed here.

By the way, this shredder is still cranking through papers like it's nobody's business. There are few things in life as satisfying as dropping a credit card offer (complete with immitation credit card inside) directly into the shredder without even bothering to open it.

So anyway, I spent a good half hour going through everything, and I ended up filling the entire seven gallon container with the shredded remains of my ageing and useless statements and financial records. February 2004 was a great period in my life, but I will never need my Chase WorkPlace Savings Account statement from back then ever again.

Yes it is good to keep records, but at a certain point it becomes overkill, and your March 2003 phone bill, while interesting, only makes it more difficult to get to the records you really need.

Keep those file boxes clean!


9 comments:

traineeinvestor said...

As I look at folder after folder of financial documents sitting on the shelves in my study, this comes as a timely reminder that a little overdue shredding is in order.

The suggestion that brokerage statements only be kept until the securities have been sold strikes me as a bit odd. What happens if the tax authorities audit you a few years later. As someone who has been subject to a mini-audit, I would not want to have to rely on a broker (who may have merged or gone out of business) to provide me with duplicates years after the event in order to get the IRD off my back.

Dennis said...

I don't keep any of my statements anymore. Everything is online, so I just check that regularly.

think like the rich said...

i shred most everything other than mortgage statements, tax returns, and a few investment statements i cannot get online. everything goes in the old fellowes FS5. it cost me like $20 6 or 7 years ago and is still tearing it up!

Anonymous said...

How long should I keep auto insurance records? I didn't see anything about that in the Bankrate article.

MoneyMan said...

For auto insurance records, I would always just keep a copy of your most current policy. Once you renew and get a new copy, your old one doesn't really matter anymore. Nobody is going to care what your auto coverage looked like a few years ago, so toss the old records and only keep what's current. (Note this is just auto insurance records, not your title etc..., those you should always keep until you get rid of your car)

Anonymous said...

You might want to keep your auto insurance records a little longer, especially if you were involved in an accident. It varies by state, but there is a period of time for which someone can sue for injuries from a car accident, so you should have proof of payment of the coverage and the actual policy that existed at the time.

MoneyMan said...

That is a good point. If you were involved in an accident, its probably best to keep your auto insurance policy for that year/six month period. For normal (accident-free) years, though, feel free to toss your policy once you're covered under a new one.

Of course there is always some small chance you might need your old policy, but the risk/reward equation, especially if you don't have much storage space, strongly leans towards throwing these things out.

MoneyMan said...

That is a good point. If you were involved in an accident, its probably best to keep your auto insurance policy for that year/six month period. For normal (accident-free) years, though, feel free to toss your policy once you're covered under a new one.

Of course there is always some small chance you might need your old policy, but the risk/reward equation, especially if you don't have much storage space, strongly leans towards throwing these things out.

Andy said...

the other thing I would recommend keeping are paychecks. Keep 12 months from your current employer, and then maybe your first and final one from past employers. These could be very useful if asked for employment references etc. Also a good way to see how your pay changes over your career.