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Records to Keep

What kinds of financial records should you be keeping? Well, take a deep breath. There are a lot of things you should keep track of. Ideally, you might get a fireproof box to store them in. Or perhaps a safe deposit box at your bank for some of them. You might also consider making a set of copies of them and storing them at a family member or friend's home. That way, if something happens to your home, you'll have these important papers. Without further ado, here are the kinds of things you'll want to keep:

  • Real-estate paperwork. These include mortgage papers, the deed/title to your home, and records of any major capital improvements or repairs to your home. These last items can help reduce your tax hit when you sell your house.

  • An inventory of your valuable possessions. Go through your home and make a list of all your furniture, jewelry, electronics, and more. Jot down what you paid for them and keep any receipts for them that you may have. Better still, consider taking photos or a videotape of these items, too. These will all prove invaluable should you have to fill out insurance papers after a fire or burglary.

  • Tax papers. Keep copies of your tax returns for the past several years -- ideally you might keep copies for every year that you file. They may prove useful or at least interesting one day. Hang on to supporting documentation for three to seven years as well.

  • Insurance policies that are still active. (You needn't keep records of expired policies.)

  • Investment records -- keep statements from your broker, and trade confirmations, too.

Remember that some of your financial records might reside on your computer, such as in Quicken files or spreadsheets. If this is the case, you should be backing up that data regularly, and perhaps keeping a copy of the data on a disk in another location.

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