Before you clear off your dining room table, putting away those tax documents, take this opportunity to organize your financial records. Whether you prefer a tabbed binder or a digital folder, taking the time to pull together and annually update your financial information will be beneficial in the long run. Not only will it make preparing for taxes next year easier, but it will also allow you to find important documents when financial questions come up or if you were unable to search for the documents yourself.

Below is a list of documents you should consider keeping, and our recommendations on how long to keep each:

 Making Your Life Easier

Keep Your Most Recent:

  • Mortgage, Loan, and Credit Card – Year-end statement showing lender and contact information
  • Insurance (Auto, Home, Umbrella, Life, Long Term Care) – Declaration page, that provides details on your premium, deductible and coverage

Keep for One Year:

  • Pay Stubs
  • Mortgage Payments
  • Utility Bills
  • Deposit Slips

Keep for Seven Years:

  • Investment, Annuity and Bank Account Statements – Keep a year-end statement for each account
  • Medical Claims – While you are at it, consider creating a list of each of your doctors and their contact information
  • Tax Return Supporting Documents

Keep Indefinitely:

  • Tax Returns
  • Major Financial Events
    • Inheritances or settlements
    • Sale or purchase of property, for example final payments on automobiles
    • Home Improvement Records
    • Warranties (while item is still in use)
    • Any Legal Filings
    • Legal Documents – Will, Powers of Attorney, Birth and Death Certificates, Marriage Licenses, Adoption Papers

Making Someone Else’s Life Easier

Though it is not pleasant to think about, is there someone who could step in to handle your affairs should you be temporarily incapacitated? What do they need to know?  Will they have access or authorization to talk about your affairs?

In addition to the items listed above, the following information will make life enormously easier for someone who is helping you through a crisis:

  • Your employer contact information (for information on benefits)
  • Locations of your property deed and auto titles
  • Information needed to access all online accounts and bills
  • File cabinet key to access any paper records you may have
  • A copy of your Durable Power of Attorney naming them as your agent
  • Separately, a copy of your Healthcare Power of Attorney identifying your healthcare agent

Organized Documents Relieve Mental Clutter

Financial questions can be stressful enough without the added hassle of not knowing where to find relevant documents. When things are easier to find there’s less stress in looking for them!