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Which Financial Documents Should You Keep On File?

Many people have financial documents scattered all over the house – on the kitchen table, underneath old newspapers, in the hall closet, in the basement. If this describes your financial “filing system,” you may have a tough time keeping tabs on your financial life.

Organization will help you, your professional advisors... and even, your heirs. If you’ve got a meeting scheduled with an accountant, financial consultant, mortgage lender, or insurance agent, spare yourself a last-minute scavenger hunt. Take an hour or two to put things in good order. If nothing else, do it for your heirs. When you pass, they will be contending with emotions and won’t want to search through your house for this-or-that piece of paper.

One large file cabinet may suffice. You might prefer a few storage boxes or stackable units sold at your local big-box retailer. Whatever you choose, here is what should go inside:

Investment Statements

Organize them by type: IRA statements, 401(k) statements, mutual fund statements. The annual statements are the ones that really matter; you may decide to forgo filing the quarterlies or monthlies.

In addition, you will want to retain any record of your original investment in a fund or a stock. (This will help you determine capital gains or losses. Your annual statement will show you the dividend or capital gains distribution.)

Bank Statements

If you have any fear of being audited, keep the last three years’ worth of them on file. You may question whether the paper trail has to be that long, but under certain circumstances (lawsuit, divorce, past debts), it may be wise to keep more than three years of statements on file.

Credit Card Statements