Tips for Personal Document Storage

By Lis McNealey Davies, CDFA®
Owner, Financial Advisor

Personal document storage

By Lis McNealey Davies, CDFA®
Owner, Financial Advisor

What to keep, where to store, and when to shred?

In a digital world, there are still documents that should be stored in paper form in safekeeping. Following is a discussion on what you need to keep, where we recommend you keep it, and when you can discard it.

Permanent records
For permanent records and documents that cannot be easily replaced, the originals should be stored in a safe and secured place, with protection from water, fire and theft. A bank safe deposit box or a fire-and burglar-resistant safe are good options. The following original documents should be kept in safekeeping on a permanent basis.

Adoption papers
Birth Certificate
Cemetery deed
Citizenship papers
Death certificate
Divorce decree
Guardianship papers
Health/Immunization records
Household inventory with photos
Insurance policy/invoices
Letter of last instructions
Marriage certificate
Medical directive
Military discharge
Naturalization certification
Power of attorney
Social security card
Trust document
Veteran's papers

You may want to consider scanning the originals and saving a copy electronically to a storage device or secured web-based filing system.

Temporary records
For temporary documents, such as tax and other financial records, these items can be typically stored in a locked filing cabinet. These items should be retained while they are current and active. For detailed record keeping information related to tax returns and their supporting documents, refer to IRS publication 17 (Part 1, What Happens After I file?). For other documents, a general time frame for keeping records is seven years.

Annuity contract
Bank statement
College financial aid
Credit card statement
Employment contract
Form 8606
Home/real estate purchase
Investment account statements
Loan agreement/statement
Pension/retirement documents
Personal property tax receipt
Property tax assessment

Receipt (expensive items)
Social security statement
Stock/bond certificate
Tax return
Vehicle title/registration
Warranty (with stapled receipt)

To assist with document management and file retention, following are additional points to consider:

  1. To prevent additional time searching, it is advisable to keep an updated inventory list of all permanent and temporary files.
  2. Shredding is one the best ways to dispose of outdated records. Invest in a personal shredder or engage a professional shredding service to discard items.
  3. Shred items that contain social security and account numbers, birth dates, or any other sensitive personal information.
  4. Contact your tax advisor or attorney if you have a question on what to keep or discard.

Lis McNealey Davies is owner of The Arlington Group Investment Consulting. A true leader in the female focused financial advisory niche, Lis builds upon the group’s strong foundation and core offerings to drive growth and champion the group as an emerging advisory company in the divorce, widowed and life transition niches. As a previous divorcee and mom to three wonderful daughters, Lis understands firsthand the importance of financial confidence.

The use of the CDFA® designation does not permit Wells Fargo Advisors or its Financial Advisors to provide legal advice, nor is it meant to imply that the firm or its associates are acting as experts in this field. Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network is not a tax or legal advisor. Be sure to consult with your own tax and legal advisors before taking any action that may have tax or legal consequences.
Investment products and services are offered through Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC (WFAFN), Member SIPC. The Arlington Group Investment Consulting, LLC is a separate entity from WFAFN.