The Overheated Shredder

The “overheat” warning light lit up on my paper shredder this evening. And we still have two file drawers to go. God knows what else we’ll discover as we peel back the layers of 20 years accumulated stuff. We have been purging, tossing, donating…and yet it still feels like we haven’t even made a dent.

Going digital

Our other companion, the scanner, is also being a very close friend as we are trying to go digital on what we don’t shred. We’ve made requests to our financial institutions to start e-delivery. Nowadays the US Post Office delivers little more than catalogs, credit card solicitations and other junk. That can’t be a winning business model.

Keep this. Not that.

We have consulted a number of Web sites about what to keep and what to toss.  There’s plenty of inconsistent advice out there on these matters. But here are some I’ve felt were either reliable sources or made logical sense. This is just about long term keeping — some people keep credit card receipts until they get their statement, and they keep their monthly statements for one year until the annual summary.

IRS tax returns — the IRS has three years from the time you file to initiate an audit if they suspect a good-faith error. They have six years to challenge your return if they think you underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more. A seven-year window should cover you in either event.

Property records — If you’re a homeowner, you should keep documents related to the purchase of your home, as well as records of substantial improvements you’ve made, such as remodeling projects and additions. Keep these on hand for at least six years after you sell the home. Here’s why.

Investments and financial statements — the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has a nice review. Generally, keep monthly statements until you get the annual statement, then keep the annual statements for capital gains tax purposes.

Consumer Reports is pretty conservative in terms of what to keep (tax returns for an eternity? I think not.) but it’s worth a look.



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