what documents should be shredded

Personal Documents | What Documents Should Be Shredded?

In January 20, 2019

In this day and age, digital data is taking over many important facets of our lives. Since you are able to view your financial accounts online and enroll in paperless billing programs, the amount of paper you are storing should be decreasing as time goes by. Of course, there will always be those really important personal documents and records that you’re going to want to keep on hand permanently. It can be difficult to discern which documents to keep,  which ones to run through the shredder and which one to just throw in the trash. Below we’ve got some tips on which documents you should be keeping, which should be shredded, and how long you should be hanging on to your personal records. 

What Documents Should I Keep on Hand?

While cleaning out your stacks of old important papers and documents, you don’t want to just shred or dispose of everything. Certain documents and vital records should be kept on hand in a secure location for a variety of purposes. Below is a list of documents that you should hold on to forever.

  • All Vital Records – Adoption records, birth, marriage, death and divorce certificates. These important vital records should be kept on hand forever. Don’t worry though, if you’ve misplaced them or they’ve been damaged, you can order certified replacement copies from an online processor like VitalChek.com.
  • Employment records – Any contracts, disciplinary paperwork, reviews, etc. Anything that may be  useful when moving forward in your career.
  • Medical records – in some cases, individuals may have things like vaccine records, x rays, other lab and test result, etc. It is beneficial to hang on to these papers in the event that you switch physicians.
  • Military Records
  • Senior and retirement paperwork – Pension documents, wills, retirement paperwork, etc.
  • Social security cards
  • Current travel documents – passports, visas, etc.
  • Academic documents – transcripts, diplomas and any other paperwork that may be useful for employment purposes

What Documents Should be Shredded?

Over the course of your life, you’ll receive countless bills, financial statements, receipts, notifications, travel documents, itineraries…the list goes on. But the big question for some may be exactly what documents should be shredded and what documents can merely be discarded or recycled. The short answer is that for security and identity safety, you should consider shredding all documents that contain personal information. Documents or records that contain the following information should be shredded: birth dates, social security numbers, passwords, logins, pin numbers, account numbers or any other strictly confidential information that could be used to gain access to your financial accounts. Below is a list of some examples of items you’re just better off shredding.

  • Employment documents or paperwork – Paperwork that has identifying information, applications, reviews, or other work records, etc.
  • Financial transactions, statements or other financial paperwork – ATM slips, bank or credit card statements, credit reports, paystubs, canceled checks or check books, any documents that contain account numbers, credit applications, tax forms, etc.
  • Travel documents – Old airline tickets, itineraries, luggage tags, expired visas or passports
  • Medical paperwork – Anything that may have identifying information or personal history etc.
  • Paperwork pertaining to your home – Utility bills, old leases, subscriptions, expired insurance paperwork etc.
Shredding documents
Shredding documents that contain personal information is a good idea to help protect you from identity theft.

When Should I Shred Important Documents?

Now that you’ve sorted out which documents to keep forever and which ones should be shredded, you might be wondering how long you should hold on to your important but disposable documents. Most documents can be shredded immediately after receiving them. But the following items should be held on to for a bit longer as you may need them for taxes or other legal matters.

  • Items to keep for 1 month – Bank statements
  • Items to shred immediately after use – Unless the cost or an invoice or bill can be used for tax purposes, the bills should be shredded immediately after paying
  • Items to keep for 1 year – Any bills or receipts that you will need to complete your taxes
  • Items to keep for 7 years – Any investment records and tax documents
  • Items to keep for an undetermined amount of time – Any home improvement receipts (keep until the home is sold), warranty paperwork (until the warranty expires), Vehicle records (until the vehicle is sold), leases (until you move out)

Of course there are exceptions and we’re sure you have some documents that might not fall under any of the examples above. Now that you have a general idea on what to shred and how long to hold on to some of your important paperwork, you should be able to organize your paperwork a little better. Keeping your personal records organized can also help prevent identity theft in the event that your documents fall into the wrong hands.


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