8 tips on how to help best protect your information
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by financial records. But knowing how long to keep documents means you can retrieve important financial information when you need it.
You should be diligent in organizing and holding on to a list of important documents such as tax returns, bank statements and paycheck stubs—but for how long, and in what format? And what is the best way to safeguard all that personal data?
Read on for eight tips on saving and shredding documents, including on how to properly store, and how long to keep documents before shredding.
Storing and Shredding
- Store permanently: annual tax returns, major financial records
Your tax returns are important documents to keep a record of for your financial history. You should keep a permanent electronic or hard copy of each year’s tax return and any payments you make to the government. You should also keep permanent records of major financial events such as legal filings or inheritances.
- Keep for seven years: supporting tax documentation
A good rule of thumb on how long to keep documents: If a document verifies a piece of information on your tax return, you should store it for at least seven years. This rule applies to company-issued records like W-2 and 1099 forms, as well as bank and brokerage statements, tuition payments and charitable donation receipts.
- Store for one year: regular statements, pay stubs
Keep either a digital or hard copy of the past year’s worth of your monthly bank and credit card statements. You should also hold on to pay stubs so that you can use them to verify the accuracy of your W-2 form when tax season arrives.
- Keep for one month: utility bills, deposit and withdrawal records
Unless you’re self-employed and need utility, cable and cell phone bills for tax purposes, you can dispose of them as soon as you verify your payment was processed. You can also dispose of bank withdrawal and deposit slips after verifying them with your monthly statement.
- Safely store all information
Designate a safe, out-of-the-way place in your home for all paper records to protect them from damage or theft. Also be sure to archive and back up all electronic records.
- Guard your online financial accounts
Use complicated passwords and change them often to keep your account information safe. Make sure your username and password combination is different from the ones you use for personal email, online merchants and social media accounts. Bank of America customers can take advantage of free online fraud protection .
- Make sure your bank values your security
Check with your financial institution to see how it protects its own copies of your financial records. Ask what secure technologies and safety practices your bank uses to safeguard against sophisticated hackers.
- Properly dispose of financial documents
You’ll put yourself at risk of fraud or identity theft if you simply throw away a large pile of private documents. Invest in a cross-cut shredder that will eliminate all traces of your personal information.
Following these practices can help protect your information and keep it from getting into the wrong hands. Visit the Bank of America Privacy & Security site for more information.