Which financial documents should you save?

Remember when they said that computers were going to do away with the mounds and mounds of paper we have to sift through?



Online only.


files_322We were lied to. I don’t know about you, but between investment accounts, bank accounts, credit card statements, and the millions of other pieces of paper the mailman delivers to my mailbox, I am swamped.

Deciding what to file and what to fling boils down to a couple of things:

• Are you likely to need it again as a reference?

• Are you obliged to hang onto this piece of paper just in case someone official starts asking questions?

If the answer is yes to either one, the item gets filed. If not, it joins the ranks of the shredded.

Your home:
File real estate paperwork and mortgage contracts. Toss everything but your most recent insurance documents. File all records relating to home improvements, repairs and additions. Keep six months’ worth of utility bills and fling the rest.

Your stuff:
File the warrantees that came with household appliances or electronics. Fling ‘em when they expire.

Your vehicle:
File the most recent version of your car insurance along with a copy of your car registration and ownership. If you can write off automobile expenses on your tax return, file every single itty-bitty receipt for gas, oil, repairs, license fees, and parking.

Your job:
File employment contracts, details of benefits packages, group insurance, and pay stubs. If you can write off entertainment and travel, keep these receipts. If your boss reimburses you for these, you can’t claim them on your personal return.

File bank and investment statements chronologically. Fling all the promotional flyers and brochures that arrived with statements. A good rule of thumb is to keep investment paperwork for six years after you’ve sold the investment. Keep a year or two supply of bank statements, cancelled cheques and credit card statements so that when it’s time to review your spending, you have some figures to work with.

CRA says you should keep your supporting documentation for six years from the end of the last year to which your paperwork relates.

File your will, powers of attorney and a full list of all the key contacts of your financial life somewhere that people can find it. If you put it in your safety deposit box, they won’t be able to get at it.

Personal documents:
Take colour photocopies of your SIN card, your health insurance card, your driver’s license, birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, marriage certificate. File the originals somewhere safe and only use the photocopies when you must produce them unless the original is specifically required.

Marriage and divorce papers:
Don’t think because the marriage is over, you can fling the paperwork. You might need it again down the road. File anything legal relating to the kids.

It doesn’t take much to put your paperwork in order. A little time, some file folders, and a willingness to part with the minutia that seems to clutter up a life. And there’s nothing like a file or fling session to make you feel like in back in control.

6 comments on “Which financial documents should you save?

  1. The above is common sense. Are there that many daft readers of this magazine?


  2. Great advice! I was wondering how long to keep some of my documents, and now I know. Thanks!


  3. Very good advice for those who are not familiar with such things, especialy government documents.


  4. Thanks for the advice Gail. What do you do about the new thermal receipt paper which loses the print often before you reach home? Luckily, most receipts stay in tack, but I have some that are blank. The government required the original receipt, so do you just give them the blank? This is a question on a possible scenario. I was told once that fading wouldn't happen with receipts from the Banking machines as banks were reqired to use theremal paper that lasted 7 years; well, folks, it has happened here too.


    • Take a photocopy of your receipt, before it fades and staple the two together.


  5. While CRA says to keep supporting documents up to six years back, they can go back up to ten years and without documentation, you are stuck with what they tell you.


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