Early in my career, I would work one-on-one with individuals by going into their home and actually organizing their financial documents. It never failed that in every home I would find mounds and mounds of financial documents stacked up or tucked away that had been there so long the ink had faded rendering whatever it started out as useless. I also spent hours sifting through bank statements and utility bills from 1996 that no one would ever need again for any reason! Lucky for me, I was paid by the hour. Lucky for you, I can now tell you just what you need and for how long you actually need it!
If Spring time is the only time Americans begin to mention cleaning, I have NO idea what the heck is going on during the rest of the year. If you’re like many Americans who contribute to the $22 billion per year storage space industry, its likely that you are up to your eyeballs with stuff you don’t need otherwise known as clutter.
Most over consuming Americans reportedly have almost $900 worth of unused and unwanted items sitting around their home. What could you do with $900 right now? What is the mound of clutter in your life holding you back from? Well, besides an audition for the show Hoarders, you may be missing out on the establishment of a savings fund, investment opportunities, books for your college kid next semester, a summer vacation . . . . Need we go on?
Here are 5 Ways to Finally Kick Clutter to the Curb . . . And, Make Some Cash!
Managing your money can create a lot of paper work, but don’t drain yourself with holding on to anything longer than you have to. If you’re like me and just want to know you have something “just in case,” then scan and save your documents in well organized folders on a computer you back up often or in a cloud based technology like Dropbox. If you opt for paperless or e-billing and receive your statements in your e-mail box, then there’s no need to scan. You can simply save your statements as a PDF and save yourself time, paper and energy!
Here are some tips on exactly when to toss old financial records.
1. Keep for a Year or Less:
Bank Statements – Review when you receive them. Look for unauthorized purchases, and keep the last three. If your self-employed, hold on to at least 12 months in order to prove your income for qualification purposes.
Monthly Bills – Review for accuracy but there’s no need to keep them for more than a quarter at the most.
Credit Card Bills – Review your bill for any billing errors. I suggest keeping these for at least six months, and indefinitely if you’ve used your credit card for business purposes noted on your taxes.
Paycheck Stub – I say you should always have your last three pay stubs. You never know when you’ll need to prove income for a loan or other necessity. Keep the last few in the year to compare against your W-2 or 1099. If it doesn’t match, go to your employer and request a change. Otherwise, you can shred them as your W-2 is good enough for filing taxes.
Insurance Policies – Always keep the most recent policy. Old ones don’t matter once a new one takes effect.