Managing Household Records, Part I:

Here’ s a quick quiz:

  • How long should you keep a copy of your tax return?
  • How about credit card bills?
  • Do you have your birth certificate, your education records, or military service records? How long should you keep them?
  • How long should you keep your bank statements, insurance policies, and contracts?
  • How about the records of the kitchen remodeling or new bathroom?

And, of course, the big question: Do you know where all of these are, really where they are? (“up in the attic in a box” doesn’t get credit!)

Well, if you were a bit hazy on some of these questions, then keep on reading. This Tri-Town Apple post provides you with some, good practical advice offered by the U.S. government, on USA.gov web site.

Because the amount of information on the USA.gov web site page, we are dividing this post into two parts. This is Part I and covers the kinds of information a family should keep safe, the information to discard, and how long to keep the saved information. Part II will cover creating a filing system, keeping your documents safe and creating an emergency document kit. Part II will publish before the end of October. Both parts are published under the “Protect” Category

To visit the web site and view the complete article, go here.

 Managing Household Records

When was the last time you couldn’t find an important paper you knew you had carefully put away? How do people decide where to store and keep such records? And how do they know what to keep, what to throw away, and when? Do you have a simple system or roadmap for important papers (PDF |download Adobe Reader) to which you or a loved one can refer to in case of an emergency?

Every household must work out its own records management system, but some general guidelines can help.  A good system will provide an overview of what happens to property after a major life event occurs.

Active File

First, gather your important papers and important documents from throughout your home. Put these documents into three piles: an active file, dead storage, and items to discard or shred. The active file should include documents and financial records you deal with on a regular basis and need to refer to. Keep these readily accessible at home:

  • Appliance manuals, warranties and service contracts
  • Bank statements
  • Bill payment receipts
  • Bills awaiting payment
  • Credit card information
  • Education records, diploma, transcripts, etc.
  • Employment records
  • Family health records, including vaccination histories
  • Health benefit information
  • Household inventory
  • Income tax working papers
  • Insurance policies
  • Loan statements and payment books
  • Password list
  • Receipts for items under warranty
  • Safe deposit box inventory (and key)
  • Tax receipts, such as those received for charitable deductions

Dead Storage

All active file papers over 3-years-old are considered dead storage. This may not necessarily apply to everything—for example, appliance manuals that you use frequently should stay in the active file.

Items to Discard

  • Cancelled checks for cash or nondeductible expenses
  • Expired warranties
  • Pay stubs, after reconciling with W-2
  • Other records no longer needed, such as those that were replaced by newer versions, manuals of appliances that you’ve replaced, etc.

How Long to Keep Documents

  • Bank statements
    • 1 year, unless needed to support tax filings
  • Birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, passports, education records, military service records
    • Forever
  • Contracts
    • Until updated
  • Credit card records
    • Until paid, unless needed to support tax filings
  • Home purchase and improvement records
    • As long as you own the property
  • Household inventory
    • Forever; update as needed
  • Insurance, life
    • Forever
  • Insurance, car, home, etc.
    • Until you renew the policy
  • Investment statements
    • Shred your monthly statements; keep annual statements until you sell the investments
  • Investment certificates
    • Until you cash or sell the item
  • Loan documents
    • Until you sell the item the loan was for
  • Real estate deeds
    • As long as you own the property
  • Receipts for large purchases
    • Until you sell or discard the item
  • Service contracts and warranties
    • Until you sell or discard the item
  • Social Security card
    • Forever
  • Social Security statement
    • When you get your new statement online, shred the old one
  • Tax records
    • 7 years from the filing date
  • Vehicle titles
    • Until you sell or dispose of the car
  • Will
    • Until updated

End of Part I

Part II will publish in the next few weeks and will cover proper document storage.

Let Us Know

Let us know if this kind of information is useful. Leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you.