Life Insurance. Keep each statement until you get the next one.

Health Insurance. We don’t get monthly statements.  Our premiums are automatically taken out of our checking account.  But with three young kids, we get plenty of health insurance paperwork – doctors’ bills and insurance statements.  We keep them all throughout the year, and then transfer the file to our Long-Term Financial File Cabinet at the end of the year where we keep it for another year just in case any disputes arise regarding insurance payments.

Utilities. These monthly statements can be tossed after about six months unless you need them for income tax purposes.  Since I’m self-employed and have a home office, we can write off a portion of our utilities.

Other Expenses. Keep receipts you may need for returns, rebates, or warranties.  Also keep receipts for especially expensive items in case you need to prove what you paid for them for insurance purposes.  Others can be tossed.

Long-Term Financial File Cabinet

In addition to the statements I noted above that should be transferred to this file cabinet at the end of the year, here’s what else to keep here:

  • Originals of estate planning documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills (Your attorney, executor, guardians, and/or trustee should also have copies)
  • All insurance policies
  • Passports
  • Social Security statements or benefit estimates
  • Product manuals/warranties

Safe Deposit Box

Some items deserve extra security, such as:

  • Copies of estate planning documents
  • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Original deeds, titles, mortgages, and other contracts
  • Stocks, bonds, and certificates of deposit
  • Other valuables such as seldom-used jewelry, medals, rare stamps, or other collectibles
  • Negatives or flash drives with important photos
  • Videos or pictures of your home’s contents for insurance purposes
  • Adoption and custody papers

Just Do It

If you haven’t set up a system like this, it may seem a little overwhelming.  Tackle it in chunks.  Soon enough, you’ll be in a rhythm of storing, transferring, and tossing the right papers.  And should you ever need one of these documents, you’ll be glad that you can find it easily.

Have you found any ways to simplify your financial record keeping system?


Matt Bell is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, including the brand new "Money & Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples."  He teaches a wide variety of workshops, including MoneySmart Marriage, at churches, conferences, universities, and other venues throughout the country.  To learn more about his work and subscribe to his blog, go to: