Which financial records to keep (and how long to keep them)

An AskMetafilter user wonders how long to keep receipts:

I have been keeping all of my receipts for some time now. Every day, I enter them into my money tracking system (presently just a text file where I capture date, payee and amount). Then I file the receipts away in folders by month. My question: does it do me any good to save the receipts, or is having the data good enough? […] I've never had to bring out individual receipts for tax purposes before, but my understanding is that if I got audited, having all my receipts would be very helpful. Is that true?

Bankrate has an excellent table summarizing how long to keep financial records. To summarize:

  • Keep any tax-related records for seven years.
  • Keep records of IRA contributions permanently.
  • Keep quarterly retirement/savings plan statements until you receive an annual statement. If the numbers match, shred the quarterlies and keep the annual summaries permanently.
  • Shred unimportant bank records after one year; keep the rest permanently.
  • Keep brokerage statements until you sell the securities.
  • Most of the time you can shred bills once you get a cancelled check. Keep bills for big items permanently.
  • Keep credit card receipts to reconcile with your statements, then keep the statements for seven years.
  • Easy and must do habit -get a copy of your free credit report.
  • Paycheck stubs should be kept until you receive your end-of-year tax statements.
  • Keep house records permanently. (Some can be held for less time, but I think it's wise to keep them all.)

Remember: If possible, shred all financial documents when you get rid of them. A program such as Quicken can help you track and manage your finances effectively without leaving a paper trail.

[Bankrate: What financial records to keep, how long to keep them]
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