Money Matters

What to Keep/What to Toss

18 Apr 2016 by: jhurley 

Now that tax day has come and gone, it’s a good idea to take a look at the ever increasing stack of paper that inevitably invades and builds up in your home office and files. As one client said, “If I leave one piece of paper on the kitchen countertop at night, by the next morning, somehow there are two -and it gets worse from there!”

Spring is a great time to toss what you don’t need. However, before you get carried away and become a paper minimalist by tossing out all of it, let’s take a look at what you need to keep. Depending on what type of documents you’re dealing with, you need to store some of them for certain periods of time, others you can digitize, and others you can throw away or shred.

Let’s start with the documents you need to keep physical copies of forever:


  • Birth and death certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Pension plan documents
  • ID cards and passports
  • Marriage license
  • Divorce decree
  • Business license
  • Any insurance policy (good to keep even if they have a digital copy in case problems come up)
  • Vehicle titles and loan documents
  • House deeds and mortgage documents
  • Most recent estate planning documents, wills, trusts, health care directives, powers of attorney, etc.
  • Military Discharge form DD 214

In general, you want to keep physical copies of anything related to state or federal matters, including certifications, licenses, or deeds. The reason is twofold: you want to have easy access to these in case you need them, and they’re also a pain to replace because you typically need to make a direct request to the government agency, which takes a lot of time.

For the documents you can toss out, be sure to use a cross shredding shredder for anything that has personal information on it, such as your name, address, account number or Social Security number.

If you’re unsure what to do with these important documents, consider keeping an “emergency kit” so you always know where they are. For CCMI clients, an even better option is to upload the scanned  versions of the documents listed above to their personal secure online vault via ShareFile.

Clients who have gone through the keep/toss/shred process with documents report that it’s better than a diet. One client reported, “I feel like I’ve lost 15 pounds, now that I am not digging through forms and paper and moving stacks around in my home!”

Click here for a more complete list of what to keep and what to toss.

CCMI provides personalized fee-only financial planning and investment management services to business owners, professionals, individuals and families in San Diego and throughout the country. CCMI has a team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals who act as fiduciaries, which means our clients’ interests always come first.
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