Do you have difficulty managing your finances, paying bills on time or finding important receipts or documents when you need them? The Financial Fitness Association offers several guidelines that can help you keep your financial life in order.
Tax returns and their supporting documents should be kept at least three years. It may be helpful to set up file folders with different headings, such as 1099s, medical expenses, and business expenses. As you receive tax
documents or pay an expense, put the accompanying document or receipt in the appropriate file.
Have a plan to keep important legal documents, such as wills, powers of attorney, birth certificates, marriage documents, divorce papers, child care orders, trust documents, business agreements and military records, permanently. Wills should be kept in an easily accessible place, and a copy should be kept in a safe deposit box and with your attorney. Note the location of the original will on the copies.
Some documents need to be kept only for as long as they are needed. For example, deeds and real estate documents should be kept for as long as you own a property, plus any additional period for tax purposes. Insurance policies, loan documents, investment information, receipts and warranty information on major purchases should also be kept for as long as you hold the policy, loan, investment or purchase.
Keep monthly bank statements for at least three years to document payments for important items. Cancelled checks may be discarded since the bank statement itemizes these payments, with the exception of those checks that support any tax deductions you might have. Credit card statements can be kept for a year to track expenses or to document a disputed charge.
Following a simple system to keep financial and legal documents organized enables you to find these items more easily, thus saving time and giving you some much-needed peace of mind.