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How Long to Keep Documents

Do you ever wonder what to keep and for how long?  This information might help.

The ABC’s of Important Papers
Julie Morgenstern’s guide to what to keep and for how long
From the September 2004 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

What to Keep
How Long

Automobile records (titles, registration, repairs)
As long as you own the vehicle(s)

Appointment books
1–10 years, depending on your comfort level

ATM slips
Maximum six years if needed for tax purposes

Bank statements
Maximum six years if needed for tax purposes

Credit card statements
Maximum six years if tax-related purchases on statements; otherwise, until annual interest statement is issued by company

Calendars (past)
According to your comfort level and whether you use them for reference or memorabilia

Catalogs & magazines
Until the next issue

Dividend payment records
Until an annual statement is supplied by company, then just only annual statements

Household inventory & appraisal
As long as current

Insurance policies (auto, homeowners, liability)
As long as the statute of limitations runs in the event of late claims

Insurance policies (disability, medical, life, personal property, umbrella)
As long as you own it

Investments (purchase records)
As long as you own them

Investments (sales records)
Maximum six years for tax purposes

Mortgage or loan discharge
As long as you own, or six years after discharge


As long as you own the item

    Art, antiques, collectibles
As long as you own the item

For the length of the returns period, unless tracking your household budget

    Credit card slips
Until your statement comes and you can match purchases

As long as you own the item in case repair is needed

    Home improvements
As long as you own your home, or six years after sale

    Household repairs
For life of warranty, or longer to reference reliability record of service people and their rates

    Major purchases
For the life of the item

    Medical and tax-related
Maximum of six years

Your canceled check is sufficient

    Utility bills
Your current bill and one previous year’s to check billing patterns

    Warranties and instructions
For the life of warranty or the item. Stick label with warranty expiration date and service repair number on bottom of appliance. If something breaks down, you’ve got an easy way to check if the item’s still covered without even having to go to your file drawer.

    Property bill of purchase
    As long as you own the property

    As long as it’s current

    Safe Deposit Box key & inventory
    As long as it’s current

    Tax records (bank statements and canceled checks, certificates of deposit, contracts, charitable contributions, credit statements, income tax returns, lease and loan agreements, loan payment books, pension plan records, pay stubs)
    The current year, plus six prior years

    Vital Records (Adoption papers, birth & death certificates, citizenship papers, copyrights/patents, marriage certificate, divorce decree, letter of “Last Instructions” to executor or heirs, medical illness and vaccination records, passports, Power of Attorney, Social Security records, Wills)

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