1010 B Street,
When it comes to keeping records, there tend to be Oscars and Felixes, like in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. The “Oscar” type tends to have papers everywhere, disorganized and perhaps just stacked in a shoebox or paper bag. It’s good to hold on to things, but when you need something, it’s also nice to have it right where you can find it for quick reference. For that reason, it’s nice to be a “Felix” about your records and keep them carefully organized. This also means destroying and throwing out what you no longer need.
The I.R.S. acknowledges that, in some cases, it’s okay to shred your tax returns after three years. Your tax professionals may have a different prescription for you, however, based on their understanding of your financial life. You might want to ask them what they suggested when you see them this year.
Here’s some other guidelines to consider: purchase and sale statements for your house should be kept for your entire ownership of the house. Hold on to utility bills for at least one year. Statements from your investment or brokerage account should be kept for at least one year. Statements from your bank account or from your credit card provider should also be kept at least one year.
Keep in mind that these suggestions are only suggested guidelines. Every financial life is different, and it’s best to check with your financial and tax people before making any changes to your record-keeping approach.1