How long should you keep your financial paperwork? Here's what you and your loved ones need to know

Experts also advise not keeping some documents in safe deposit boxes -- unless you have another copy.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023
How long should you keep your documents? Here's what to know
Some documents should be kept for seven years, some for three -- and some forever.

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- How long should you keep your paperwork? Tax returns, and the like? The usual advice is seven years and some actually advise three years. And some, forever.

Walnut Creek wealth advisor George Noceti helps his clients with money management, and that includes management of the paperwork surrounding their money.

"There are things that we should keep for seven years like tax returns, your deductions, records of things that you've sold mortgage documents, medical records. There's things you should just keep for one year - like bank statements, pay stubs, quarterly investment statements, canceled checks," Noceti said.

A good reminder of solid advice, but Noceti says there are some things you should just plan to hang on to.

"There are some things that you should keep forever - like your birth certificates and death certificates, your Social Security card, your ID card, your passports (even your expired ones), merit certificates, divorce decrees, adoption papers, and record of your home purchase insurance policies are really critical," Noceti says.

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Jennifer Anders-Gable from the Western States Pension Assistance Project said, "So you want to keep all those documents because you don't know what you don't know now, and you don't know what you won't know in the future."

Her organization helps people find and get money from their pensions. Sometimes her clients need paperwork proof from 30 to 40 years ago, such as if they paid into the pension and if they got an early payout.

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"Because most people don't need to think about their pension until they're in their sixties. 'Why would I hold on to something from my employment years?' And again it's proving that negative," Anders-Gable says.

She says if you have a pension, hang on to the pension booklet and paystubs forever. Same with tax returns from that work period.

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Which brings us to where all that paperwork should be stored.

"Some people will keep their living trust document in their safe deposit at the bank. So that's a good safe place for it, except that if you pass, and the bank finds out, they lock your safe deposit box up and nobody can get to the will and trust," Anders-Gable says.

You can save a lot of this electronically, but consider making multiple copies.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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