Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Connecticut

How Can I Control The Paper??

Where do I Start?

Paper comes to our door from many outlets. There is the mail. There are the pamphlets at doctors’ offices, senior fairs, and in the grocery stores. Then while reading our emails or surfing the web there is all that information that we feel is a necessity to print off. How can we live without it? All this absolutely necessary information! What should I keep? And how long do I have to keep it? What can I throw out? A lot of questions stem from the paper that consistently pours into our lives.

In Part 1, we will look at simplifying the mail that arrives daily. ,Try to look at your mail daily. Make sure you have a wastebasket nearby, a shredder if you so choose, a marker, pen/pencil and Post’em notes. Make different piles for appropriate categories and choose from the following options:

Toss - into the wastebasket, or in the shredder, though names can be blackened out with a marker satisfactorily protecting your identity.

Action Needed - You can either place in an IN box, use an  Action Needed File Folder  or put to one side at a designated place for Action but use Post’em notes and make sure you note the dates action is needed by.

File - Put directly into the appropriately labeled file. If you don’t have a suitable file then create one now. It’s a simple task, you would be surprised what a difference it makes when everything is filed correctly as you go along. You will marvel at how clever you are when you can find everything you want when you want it !

Pay Bills - If you pay by check, you will want to make sure you are on time with your payments. It is helpful to have a file with a calendar in it. Mark on the calendar when the bill is due and the amount due and you can review weekly. Of course, if you pay as the bill arrives, then simply pay, note the payment on the receipt, and file in the appropriate file.

How Long Do I keep the Paper?

Tax Information - Your tax related paper should be kept for 7 years. I suggest you store each tax year’s back-up data (receipts, W-2s, interest statements, etc.) in a separate container (plastic or banker box) so that when the time comes you can just shred that year’s paperwork. You may decide that you still want to hold onto actual returns but there is no reason to hold onto the backup data.

Tax paperwork should be shredded whenever possible so as to avoid  possible identity theft. Many of these documents contain important information such as your social security number, making it quite simple for a thief to steal your identity.

Insurance (House, Auto, etc.) - Keep this as long as you have the policy. Once the policy has ended, you will want to keep your paperwork for an additional three to seven years. This extension will ensure your documents are available in the case of unfinished business with the company, lawsuits, outstanding claims or insurance claims being submitted late. If you are absolutely sure there are no outstanding claims or other issues, you really do not have to keep the paperwork past the expiration of that policy.

Insurance (Health) - As long as you do not have any outstanding claims, you do not have to hold onto this more than a year. If you keep any of this information as part of your medical history, then you should keep it in a clearly labeled file or binder.

Warranties, Titles, Receipts for Important Purchases – Keep as long as you own the relevant item.

Some Paperwork should never be thrown away – This includes  wills, trusts, birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage and divorce papers, citizenship papers, military records, financial aid documents, powers of attorney, stock certificates, appraisals, etc. These should all be kept somewhere safe but where they can be easily accessed by someone who you know and trust.

If you take the time to put all of your paperwork in order, you will avoid stress and save time which is indeed a valuable asset!

In Part 2, I will talk about putting together a medical binder, how to get off email lists and mailing lists and much more.

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