How Long Should You Keep Important Paperwork?

Your desk is piled high with grocery receipts from two months ago; cancelled cheques from 2014 flutter around the room when you open a window; your hard drive is bulging with downloaded brokerage transaction statements. Sound familiar?

Then start sorting through with an eye to discard those documents you no longer need to keep. Well-organised, relevant record-keeping is worth its weight in gold because you can find things quickly when you need them.

Here’s the perfect guide on how to get there.

  1. Essential “keep for life” financial documents

Keep a copy of your most valuable papers in secure storage. To keep them organised, divide them into 2 files: one for the documents you frequently need, and another for those you only use occasionally. The documents that you may need frequently include your driver’s license and special health documentation for disabling conditions, allergies and the like.

The documents that you may not use often, but must retain as originals in secure storage, include your birth certificate, marriage certificate, adoption papers, divorce decrees, NRIC and other identification documents, social security card, wills, life insurance policies, and other health records such as your medical history, organ donor card and immunisation records.

Keep these documents in an envelope or folder so that you can access them easily when you need them.It’s a good idea to create a digital copy of these documents as backups of the original. You can scan or take a high-quality photo of each page. Keep them stored on your hard drive.

If you lose any of these documents, don’t freak out. It is still possible to obtain new copies from their respective boards or bureaus. For example, immunisation records can be requested from the National Immunisation Registry. It will be most efficient to replace these records quickly if they’ve been lost. Having those items on hand will save you considerable time and unnecessary expenditure if the need for them suddenly arises.

  1. Tax-related documents and business records

According to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, the Income Tax Act and the GST Act require you to keep business records and accounts for at least five years.

Read: Understanding Singapore Taxes In 5 Minutes!

  1. Income records and documents

HSBC recommends keeping payslips, CPF documents and Notices of Assessment for three to six months, especially if there is a possibility you will be applying for a credit card or a loan.

  1. Employment records

Experts suggest holding on to employment records and performance evaluations for seven years, and to hang on to offer letters for as long as the position remains open.

  1. Bank statements

You can go paperless and simply download the electronic version of your bank statements from certain banks in Singapore. Check your bank’s policy to see how far back they keep your bank statements.

  1. Credit card statements

Credit account statements can be thrown away after you have checked their accuracy. However, if you have an outstanding loan, keep the statements until you have settled the payment.

  1. Monthly bills

Check the accuracy of your monthly bills before throwing them away. Always hang on to the most recent statement in case you need to show proof that your account is paid in full.

  1. Receipts and banking transaction confirmations

No one wants to go through an unorganised pile of receipts, banking slips and other unimportant paperwork to find the important ones. So what’s unimportant?

Receipts for small items may be thrown away after making sure that the services or goods that you paid for are satisfactory. However, consider keeping receipts for expensive items in case you need to make an insurance or warranty claim, or to provide proof of purchase.

Deposit slips, ATM withdrawal slips and other banking transaction slips may be thrown in the trash as soon as the transaction is visible in your bank statement.

Remember, for all personal documents, shredding is the best disposal policy.

  1. Warranties

Keep warranties for their duration. Once they expire, throw them in the trash.

  1. Real estate documents

Hang on to all of the real estate documents relevant to your home for the duration of your ownership. Such documents include the sales contract, deeds, mortgage papers, appraisal documents, and any other related transaction records and receipts.

  1. Car documents

As with real estate documents, hang on to all car documents about your vehicles for the life of your ownership. These include registration documents, warranties, user manuals, and repair receipts.

Read: 6 Ways to Make Extra Money Without Quitting Your Day Job

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C.E.O @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. Anna has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and The Peak Singapore. She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen). Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).