When to Save or Shred Your Important Documents

Let’s take a look at five common documents you may receive in the mail regularly, as well as documents that contain your personal information and let you know when, how and if you should throw them away. It might also be time to invest in your own shredder; you can pick one up at most office supply or department stores.

Car Insurance Documents

Aside from the proof of insurance card you’ll keep in your vehicle, you may have other documentation about your policy. If at any time the DMV or other authorities suspect that you’ve had a lapse in coverage, they might require you to prove you had insurance. Hold on to proof of your coverage to be on the safe side.

Account Statements

You should keep credit card, checking and savings statements for up to seven years if they include tax-related information. If there isn’t any long-term significance for taxes or other purposes, keep them for about a year, then shred them.

Credit Cards

Some dumpster-diving degenerate could walk away with your 16-digit card number and the three secret numbers on the back! You might as well reveal where that embarrassing mole is, too. Shred any old credit or debit cards (we mean the actual cards, not the statements), as well as those “free” promotional or pre-approved cards you get in the mail.

Tax Returns

The IRS can challenge your tax returns for various reasons, but each reason has a “period of limitation,” after which they can’t challenge the return. The longest period of limitation is seven years. Be sure to keep your tax papers for at least that long, in case you’re audited. Visit irs.gov for more detailed information about the reason for auditing and your specific circumstances before shredding old tax documents.

Pay Stubs

Your paycheck stubs have so much information, such as your name, address, social security number, gross pay and deductions, that if the wrong people get a hold of them they could seriously damage your credit report. You should hold on to them for at least one year. That information should be reflected cumulatively in your W2 form, which you’ll keep with your tax papers (so it won’t be gone forever). After that, shred away.

If your papers are piling up, it may be time to plug in the shredder and dust off the file cabinet. It will make finding stuff you need easier and stealing your identity more difficult. Storing your documents digitally is a great option as well, just be aware that the digital world has it own set of vulnerabilities when it comes to hacking and identity theft.

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