5 tips to start your financial spring cleaning

Spring is the perfect time to get a fresh start. While most of us think of spring cleaning for our house, it’s also an ideal time to apply the same tradition to organizing our finances. Here are a few ways to help you take charge of your financial records.

Tip 1: Decide what to discard

Given that only 40 percent of Americans believe they could locate an important document when needed1, consider shredding what you don’t need. Keep these guidelines in mind:

Documents When to discard
Bank deposit slips After you reconcile your statements
Banking statements After a calendar year; store with tax returns if used to prove deductions
Brokerage, 401(k), IRA, Keogh, other investment statements Shred monthly and quarterly statements as new ones arrive; hold annual statements until you sell the investments
Credit card bills After you check and pay them, unless needed for tax filings
Household warranties/receipts After you no longer own the household items
Insurance policies After you renew them
Investment purchase confirmations and 1099s Hold until you sell, then keep with your tax records for seven years
Loan documents After you sell
Pay stubs After you reconcile them with your W-2
Receipts After you reconcile them with your credit card/bank statement unless needed for a warranty
Savings bonds Cash them in when they mature
Social Security statements When you get a new statement
Tax returns/supporting documents After seven years
Vehicle titles After you sell the vehicle

 

Tip 2: Decide what to keep

We suggest that you keep these items in a safe-deposit box and  photocopies for your records.

Documents When to discard
Birth/death certificates Never
Employer defined-benefit plan communications Never
Estate-planning documents Never; Give copies to your attorney/executor
Life-insurance policies Never, or when a term policy has ended
Marriage licenses/divorce decrees Never
Military discharge papers Never
Safe-deposit box inventory Never; review/update annually
Social Security cards Never

 

Tip 3: Make an insurance inventory

Make a video with your smart phone of your home. Document both the inside and outside of the home. Don’t forget your garage, vehicles and other structures. Photograph new possessions and record their value.
 

Tip 4: Put a back-up plan in place

After you scan or download your records, don’t forget to create a back-up on a separate hard drive or cloud storage system to prevent future data loss.
 

Tip 5: Review your accounts

Consolidate your bank and brokerage accounts, closing any inactive ones and shredding any unused checks. This is also a good time to examine the fees you pay and shop for other options that would reduce or eliminate these charges.

 

1Consumer Reports National Research Poll

Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick Youngson

The information herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but Wealth Dimensions Group, Ltd. (“WDG”) does not warrant its completeness or accuracy. Prices, opinions and estimates reflect WDG ‘s judgment on the date hereof and are subject to change at any time without notice. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute current opinions, which are subject to change. Projections are not guaranteed and may vary significantly. Past performance is not indicative of future results.