January is as good a month as any to dig into your financial files and purge what you don’t need to keep any longer. I like to start the year organized; it not only cleans up my hard drive or my file cabinets, it makes me feel on top of things. Similar to the great feeling I get when I clean out my closets – like I did something good for myself.
But, if you are like most of us, you’ll start the project with good intentions and then get frustrated because you’re not sure what documents to keep and for how long. You worry that you may need that legal-sized file stuffed with records from a home you sold six years ago, or you’ll get audited right after your shred your old tax returns. To stretch the closet analogy a bit – it’s like when you start auditing your closet, and you can’t seem to part with anything. So instead, you put everything back on their hangars and shut the door in disgust.
Fortunately, there are guidelines and best practices for how long to keep financial documents on file. I’ll guess that you aren’t emotionally attached to your paperwork like you are to the clothes in your closet, so it will be a lot easier to purge once you learn what to keep and what to toss. Help is on the way.
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