When to keep and when to shred

Note: With Itemize you can simply snap a photo of all paper receipts and throw away/shred the receipt once properly inputted.

Identity theft has been described as “America’s fastest growing “white collar” crime. When Javelin Strategy & Research released their 2016 Identity Fraud Study, it showed that in 2015, $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million consumers.

Did you know that protecting your identity is largely in your own hands? Fifty-six percent of identity theft victims traced the theft to something that was stolen from their own possession.

So here’s the first rule: If you don’t need it, shred it – responsibly.

A few guidelines for what to keep and what to shred

  • Keep: Tax returns. The number of years to keep returns depends on the person. For the average consumer with simple taxes, keeping your returns for at least the past three years is sufficient. With more complex returns, you will want to hang on to them longer.
  • Shred: Most receipts. Plenty of receipts can just be thrown away, rather than placed in a shredder. Keeping bank account, ATM and credit card transactions until they are shown correctly on your bank statement and then shredding them is a sound financial practice. The exception would be large purchases that have been insured, keep these receipts.
  • Keep: Investment records. Retain these records for as long as you own the investment. Some brokerage firms allow copies to be accessed electronically, which would eliminate the need for the paper copies.
  • Shred: Some of your junk mail. Some junk mail warrants shredding based on what personal information it contains. Preapproved credit card applications should be shred, but items with just your home address are okay to be thrown away.
  • Keep: Pay stubs. Especially if you don’t receive your checks via direct deposit, keep pay stubs around for a year. It can be helpful to double-check your total income received on a pay-period basis against the income reported to the IRS on your annual W-2.
  • Shred: Bills. Once bills are paid, they are no longer needed, but shred them. The exception is if you have a home-run business, in which you may need the bills for tax purposes.
  • Keep: Mortgage-related papers. Keep all paperwork received at the closing, including loan documentation, for as long as you own the property. This would include any home improvement receipts to one day show to a potential homebuyer.
  • Shred: Digital media. When replacing laptops or smartphones, remember these devices can have just as much important, financial information as your paperwork. Safely destroy these items to stay out of the hands of criminals.