Spring-cleaning for your financial house

Five simple strategies will get your financial papers organized. Now's your chance to end the chaos forever.

Getting things in order: A crib sheet
What to Keep, What to Toss
DOCUMENTS HOW LONG TO SAVE WHY
Tax returns and proof of filing Forever In case you're audited, and to have a history of your finances
Documents that support your tax return (1099s, W-2s, statements and receipts that prove deductions) Six years. Hang on to paper that backs up this year's filing, for instance, until April 17, 2013. In case you're audited. The IRS typically has only three years to examine your return for mistakes, but the window gets wider if it suspects deliberate misconduct. Better safe than sorry.
Receipts Until the warranty expires for big-ticket purchases; six years for deductible expenses To establish date and proof of purchase for warranties, to track deductible expenses for the current year's tax return and to support those write-offs in case of a future audit
Stock, bond and mutual fund statements Six years after you sell if you have a gain; if you have a loss, six years after you last claim it on your return To prove to the IRS how you accounted for the gains or losses
Medical bills One year, typically; six years if you deduct medical expenses In case you are able to itemize or have a dispute with your insurer; if you do itemize, hold longer in case of an audit.
Pay stubs Until your W-2 arrives To confirm the information against your W-2 summary
401(k) and IRA statements Until year-end summary arrives To check that your contributions have been credited correctly; keep the year-end statements for your long-term files.
Bank statements Until the end of the year To confirm your 1099; hold longer if needed for tax purposes.
Utility bills Until the end of the year To track usage; hold for six years if you deduct a home office.
Credit-card statements One month for most To reconcile charges; hold longer if needed for tax purposes.

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.