Every Military Family will over the years acquire mounds upon mounds of paperwork. From bank statements, credit card statements, wills, POA’s, loan documents, housing paperwork, to everything in between.
One thing we learn quickly as a Military Family is it is important to keep documents organized or what our idea of organized is. Let’s face it; most of us are not as document organized as we would like to be, nor do we really need this huge mound of paperwork. But what should we keep and for how long? What is ok to toss? What papers should be kept in a safe or a safe deposit box? Which ones are ok to keep in a filing cabinet? And when on earth can we get rid of some of this crap?
Before we can even begin the organization process, we need to go through all this paperwork and shred the stuff we just don’t need. Below is a list of what to keep, what to shred, and when to do it.
Don’t fret too much if you have lost or accidently shredded an item on the list before you should have.
Most documents can be re-ordered. Financial institutions as required by law to keep records of your statements for 7 years. And most Military Records are now kept online. Of course, it can be a hassle in tracking down those records and getting copies, which is why you want to have your own set of copies on hand, should you need to access it quickly.
If you are missing something from the list that you know you should have, now would be a good time to track down a copy of it, so you can keep it with your other important documents.
KEEP IN FILING CABINET
Bank Statements – Keep for 1 year, unless you use them to prove tax deductions on a tax return or if it is the only proof you have for an item you bought that is under warranty. If you use them for tax deductions keep the statement for 7 years and keep it with that year’s tax return. Most banks now offer paperless statements online and will allow you to view up to the last 18 months worth of statements. If you bank does, consider switching to paperless statements. This will not only save paper, reduce document clutter, but will also lessen the risk of identity theft through the mail.
Credit Card Statements – Same as bank statements.
Investment Statements – Shred monthly and quarterly statements as new ones arrive. Hold onto annual statements until you sell the investment.
Deposit, ATM, and Credit Card receipts – shred after checking them against statements.
Loan Documents – Shred after the loan has been paid off. As a good practice, you should keep the last statement showing the loan has been paid off and there is a 0 balance. You may need it later should the loan company try and say you never paid the loan (it is rare but it does happen).
Medical Bills – Keep for 1 year unless they are needed for tax purposes, in which you will need to keep them for 7 years with your tax documents.
Pay Stubs – Shred after receiving the W-2 for that job at year’s end.
Store Receipts – shred after reconciling them unless they are needed for a warranty, proof of home office (self-employment) expense, or for a high priced item (you may need it in the event of a loss or when filing a claim with transportation during a TMO or partial DITY move).
Tax Statements & Documents along with supporting evidence – Keep for 7 years unless you never filed a return or filed a fraudulent return, then keep indefinitely.
Utility & Service Bills – shred after new bill arrives unless you like to track usage, then shred after year. If you have jotted any notes on the bills, keep them on a running ledger and jot them down on the ledger before shredding. The exception to this is if you have a home office and claim utility expenses on your tax return, in which you should then keep them with your tax records for 7 years.
Vehicle Records – Keep for as long as you own the vehicle. This includes purchase receipts, titles, registration, and maintenance/repair records. Keep registration and insurance card in your auto. Shred previous years registration.
Warranty Information – Toss after the warranty has expired or you no longer own the item.
KEEP IN FIRE/WATER PROOF SAFE OR SAFE DEPOSIT BOX
Adoption & Custody Papers – Keep indefinitely.
Birth Certificates – Keep indefinitely.
DD-214’s – Keep indefinitely.
Death Certificates – Keep indefinitely.
Diplomas and Transcripts – Keep Indefinitely.
Divorce Decree – Keep indefinitely in.
Insurance Policies – Shred policies that have expired and you have renewed (such as auto, home, and renters insurance). You only need to keep the current policy documents.
Inventory of Household Goods, Appraisals, and Receipts – Should be updated as new items are purchased or when you no longer own an item.
Life Insurance Policies – Keep indefinitely or for as long as the policy is in effect.
Marriage License – Keep indefinitely.
Military Enlistment Records – Keep indefinitely.
Military Housing Paperwork – For as long as you (or your spouse) are in the service. The only thing really needed is the move out checklist and paperwork in case an issue arises later.
Passports – Keep for as long as it is valid.
Power of Attorney’s (POA) – Keep indefinitely.
Settlement Agreements – Keep indefinitely.
Social Security Card – Keep indefinitely. Unlike previous years the SSA now recommends storing your social security card in a safe rather than carrying it with you.
Wills – Keep indefinitely.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, accountant, therapist, astronomer, or palm reader. None of the above advice should be considered any type of professional advice. As always, you should speak to a professional for any advice you may need and the advice above should be used at your own risk.