Stacked File Folders on Desk

Don't Gamble With Document Retention

Know What to Throw Away and Know What to Keep

When Kenny Rogers released the iconic chart-topping hit, “The Gambler,” in 1978, financial statements were received in the mail. Today, these same statements are delivered electronically. Although the way we receive financial information has drastically changed over the past 40 years, the financial wisdom imparted by “The Gambler” remains the same. When it comes to financial spring cleaning, “the secret to survivin’ is knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep.”

Document Hold 'Em Fold 'Em
Receipts Until the item’s warranty expires or as needed for tax purposes. Once you have verified the purchase is reflected properly on your next bank or credit card statement.
Credit Card Statements As needed to demonstrate proof of payment or for tax purposes. Once you have paid the bill (if not needed for tax purposes).
Bank Statements As needed for tax purposes. After one year has passed from the statement date (if not needed for tax purposes).
Bills As needed for tax purposes. Once you have verified the accuracy of the statement and paid the bill (if not needed for tax purposes).
Monthly Investment Statements Until you receive your annual investment summary. Once you have received your annual investment summary.
Annual Investment Summary Up to seven years, as needed for tax purposes. Once no longer needed for tax purposes.
Tax Returns and Supporting Documents For three years with the following exceptions:
  • For seven years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or a bad debt deduction.
  • For six years if you do not report income that you should report.
  • Indefinitely if you fail to file a return or file a fraudulent return.
Once the noted audit-related time periods have lapsed.

Vital Records

  • Birth and Death Certificates
  • Marriage Licenses
  • Divorce Decrees
  • Estate Planning Documents
Forever. Never.

As you can see, some documents have a limited shelf life. Once that shelf life expires, these documents should be shredded to ensure the safety of sensitive information. Other documents should be retained in perpetuity. If certain documents are needed after you are gone, will your family be able to find them? Ask your Stifel Financial Advisor for a copy of our Final Thoughts and Information for Loved Ones. Use this document to help your family quickly locate all important documents and information. In these final words, they’ll find an ace that they can keep.

Taxes and responsible document retention go hand in hand. Before discarding any documentation that may have tax implications, consult with a qualified tax professional.