How Long to Keep Documents Before Shredding
While we currently live in a digital era, it’s still easy to become consumed by paper. In an effort to reduce clutter and free up valuable space, home and business owners alike need to make time throughout the year to review paper stacks, piles, and files, and eliminate what is no longer needed. While the process of paper sorting and disposal may seem straight forward, it raises a number of questions. What is the best method of disposal? Which documents should you keep? How long to keep documents before shredding? Read on to find the answers.
There are three main ways to rid yourself of unwanted paper, listed here in order from best to worst:
- Shred. Items containing confidential data such as Social Security numbers, financial records, signatures, passwords, or client information, can be used for identity theft or other criminal activities and should be shredded by a reputable document destruction firm rather than tossing or recycling.
- Recycle. This eco-friendly option is best reserved for generic items such as newspapers, flyers, junk mail, catalogs, and magazines, as thieves can easily gain access to recycled materials.
- Garbage. This is the least desirable option, leading to waste, crowding landfills, and exposing information to potential thieves.
Earn Your Keep
Certain documents are made to keep for a lifetime, including those listed below. Make arrangements for long term, secure storage for the following:
- Birth certificate.
- Marriage certificate.
- Divorce papers.
- Powers of attorney.
- Social Security cards.
Bide Your Time
Any documents containing personal or critical information should be shredded to ensure they don’t fall in to the wrong hands, but when it comes to shredding, timing is everything.
- Bank Statements. Statements should be reviewed and reconciled on a monthly basis, and stored securely for use at year end accounting. Once taxes are filed, documents can be shredded, and if needed at a later date should be available from your financial institution.
- Cancelled Checks. Depending on the policies of your financial institution, checks can either be destroyed after one years’ time, or upon receipt and reconciliation if on record with your bank.
- Credit Card Statements. Unless proof of purchase is required for warranty or tax purposes, these statements can be shredded once they are reviewed for inaccuracies.
- Insurance Policies. Records should be stored securely as long as the policy is in effect, after which time papers can be shredded.
- Investment Purchases. Documentation should be kept as a record of purchase, and only destroyed upon the sale, and subsequent filing of taxes.
- Investment Statements. Statements should be kept on file until the years’ end, and reconciled with the annual statement. Once taxes have been filed, monthly and quarterly statements can be shredded.
- Manuals and Warranties. These items should be kept for the duration of ownership, and then shredded.
- Mortgage/Lease Information. Store these papers securely until the end of the mortgage or leasing term, after which point they can be safely shredded.
- Payroll Documentation. As this type of document contains a great deal of vital information, they should be stored securely upon receipt. Once pay stubs have been compared to employer records at year end, they can be shredded.
- Receipts. Keep all receipts required for tax purposes, and after filing, shred all but those needed to maintain your warranty or make a return.
- Tax Records. Tax returns, and all supporting documentation should be stored securely for a minimum of seven years, after which time digital copies may be made prior to shredding.
Document Shredding Services in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC
Do you have a pile of personal records, files, and other confidential information that you want to destroy? Call TrueShred for one-time shredding—it’s an ideal alternative to sitting in front of your limited-capacity home shredder for hours! We’ll come to your home and do full personal document destruction.
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