Should You Save or Shred?

Oct 25, 2013

By Staff Writer

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Do you fall in the category of "pack rat" or "purger" when it comes to your personal documents? The best approach is somewhere in between the two extremes. Try these suggestions for a sensible but streamlined way to manage your paperwork. 

Keep Forever
Because photocopies or scanned images of legal papers are usually not valid, store originals of these documents in a fireproof container or safe deposit box.

  • Marriage licenses, divorce and custody decrees
  • Birth, adoption and death certificates
  • Wills, trusts, financial and medical powers of attorney
  • Passports and citizenship papers
  • Military records

Keep While You Own the Asset

  • Property abstracts, mortgage documents, insurance policies and receipts for home improvements
  • Vehicle titles, purchase or lease documents and auto insurance policies
  • Receipts, warranty certificates and operating instructions for household items
  • Stock certificates and retirement plan records

Keep for at Least 7 Years
While your tax returns can generally be audited for three years after you file, that period can increase to seven years if the IRS suspects fraud or unreported income. And naturally, you must be able to produce all supporting documentation. The good news? The IRS will accept legible electronic records, so copy everything to a DVD or flash drive and store it with your "keep forever" documents. (Don't forget to delete any tax-related records from your hard drive for security reasons.) For more information, check out IRS Publication 552.

Scan and Save Digitally or Shred
Unless you have to retain originals of these documents for business purposes, these space-wasting items can be stored digitally and/or shredded each month: ATM receipts; bank statements and paystubs; and medical, utility and credit card bills.

Go Paperless When Possible
Just as State Farm® offers paperless billing and payment options, many of your recurring expenses can become paper-free transactions, eliminating the need to write checks or buy stamps. You can even choose to receive automated reminders so you won’t overlook due dates. To protect your private information, sign up for electronic billing on encrypted web sites using the https:// prefix. And to save even more trees each month, opt out of junk mail lists. The Federal Trade Commission recommends contacting the Direct Marketing Association to reduce unsolicited mail. Other services, such as Catalog Choice and Do Not Mail, also may help reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.

While you're clearing out the paper, it may be a good time to update—or create—a home inventory. The State Farm HomeIndex® gives you a fast, easy way to document your things.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under any policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information. We assume no liability in connection with the information nor the suggestions made.

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