Have you ever thought about what happens to a piece of paper when you put it in the trash? It may pass through several different places/stages on it’s way to a landfill or incinerator. The risk of someone finding your personal information is very real.
To safeguard your personal information, shred it before it goes in the trash. You can either purchase a personal shredder to take your documents to a shredding service. Check with your local municipality, some offer this service for free.
Don’t know how long to keep personal information? Use the guidelines below:
- Tax information and returns: 3 years – the IRS has 3 years from when you file your return to start an audit.
- Investment records and statements: 3 years – you must keep them to support your tax return
- Bank Statements and canceled checks: this is really personal but you may want to keep them to document purchases or payments for important items
- Paystubs: 3 months – some contain social security numbers and bank account numbers so make sure these are shredded
- ATM receipts: Until you have compared them to your bank statement
- Credit card statements: Maybe a year in case of a dispute or to return an item
- Utility bills & household receipts: Unless you are documenting household expenses as tax deductions, there is no need to keep them.
- Warranties: Keep them as long as you own the item or until the warranty expires
- Insurance: Keep as long as the policy is in effect
- Home financial information: Deeds, mortgages and information on home improvements should be kept as long as you own the home plus 3 additional years for tax purposes
- Permanent files: Wills, power of attorneys, birth certificates, marriage certificates, trust documents, business arrangement documents – Keep indefinitely