Yes, we're talking about hoarding bank statements that date back before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Many of us were forced to deal with pitiful piles of paper after historic flooding hit metro
Sure, a bad storm alone won't throw you into the paperwork vortex. Some of us must re-evaluate what records we keep before making a big move. Maybe it's a divorce. Or a death.
But what slips of paper do you need to save? Does anyone really need a
-- How long should you keep an old tax return?
Hodges, a member of the
A few experts advise keeping tax returns maybe forever.
"Sometimes, it's good to go back and see how poor we were back in the old days," Harano joked.
Some old returns can be key if there's a question about your income for
-- How long should you keep a pay stub?
OK, many companies aren't handing out paper checks now. But typically, you're going to want a record of your pay to double check the W-2 that's issued. If the W-2 is wrong, you'd have pay stubs for the year to dispute it.
Because pay stubs are cumulative, keep your last pay stub for the year and put it in your tax return file, said
-- Do you need the electric bill for
No. But some experts say you might want the past year's utility bills -- just in case some issues come up. Others say they don't hold on to any utility bills for longer than a month or so.
"As long as you're paying your bill and they don't turn off your power, you're good," Harano said.
One would want to keep records for utility bills for several years, if you needed a utility bill to back up a home-based business tax break.
-- How long do you keep a bank statement? ATM slips? Receipts?
Experts say keep bank and credit card statements for one year. Some keep bank statements for four years, but not 25 years. Many statements are available online.
Long said she keeps receipts for clothing until she's been able to wash or dry clean the item. If there's a quality issue, she'd have the receipt.
-- Some paper belongs in something more secure than a file cabinet.
That bottom drawer in a file cabinet is easily flooded when water hits a basement. Think safe deposit box or a fireproof box for very important documents.
Papers that deserve extra care: Policy statements for your auto and homeowner's insurance. The title to your car. The deed to your home. A birth certificate. Passports.
Take extra care with
More than one parent -- and I'll admit to this one -- will tell you about a mad dash to find that child's
Financial clutter is one job no one wants to tackle, of course. But it's got to be done much like a periodic purging of guest rooms, garages and closets. Or else you'll be flooded with paper.
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