Your Life, All in the Right Place
By Clint Willis

(MONEY Magazine) – Wouldn't it be nice to find that warranty when the fridge is fried? Or to lay your hands immediately on those charitable receipts at tax time? Or to know that in an emergency you or your spouse can locate really important information? Here's what to toss, what to keep and where to put it.


• Use a scanner to turn paper into computer files. • Design and maintain a simple system for naming and organizing your computer files. For example, create one folder for each year and divide it into subfolders for taxes, investments and so on. • Back up those files on CDs at least once a month. • Store the CDs in a fireproof safe. • Password-protect your computer.


• Tax returns and supporting documents (hold for seven years) • Bank statements (keep for three years) • Trading records that show how much you paid for stocks and mutual funds (hold until you sell so you can calculate tax gains or losses) • Receipts showing nondeductible contributions to retirement accounts (so you can prove you already paid taxes on that money) • Receipts for big purchases to support insurance claims, warranties • Home improvement receipts (for tax purposes if you sell your house) • Annual statements for retirement or other investment accounts


• Current or recently paid bills • Recent bank, brokerage and credit-card statements • Past year's health records • Receipts for deductible expenses


• Online banking and bill paying • Budgeting


• Receipts for minor purchases • Expired warranties


(Give heirs the combination)

• House and car titles • Stock certificates • Original insurance policies • Birth and marriage certificates, passports • Will, health-care proxy and power of attorney • Divorce or custody papers • Videotape of home contents for insurance • Social Security cards


• Old quarterly statements for investment accounts (after you have the annual statements) • Anything you don't need that has your Social Security number, account number, birth date or maiden name on it