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Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

'Tis The Season to Shred, Shred, Shred

To Shred Or Not To Shred?
... That is the question
 Ah, yes... April 15th is just around the corner, and, with the deadline to file your 2013 tax return quickly approaching, it is a perfect time to purge outdated paper from your filing system. While paperLESS is possible, our world doesn't accommodate the concept of paperFREE, making it all the more important to shred papers discarded with confidential information, and local organizations make it easier than ever to shred what needs to be shredded with several free events coming up (see list of options below or on this site). Yet, with all the different advice available, it is difficult to know what can be recycled versus needing to be shredded. There are many different opinions about what to keep for how long, and the following is what I have found most helpful for my clients. VERY IMPORTANT... I recommend checking with your accountant about items that should be kept for the long-run as well as the BBB's Records Retention Schedule; however, here's a general reference list to get your sorting and purging started.

What to keep permanently, protected from fire and flood:
- Annual tax returns (however, tax-related receipts and bank statements can often be shredded after 7 years... Please verify your specific circumstances with your accountant.)
- Audit reports
- Business licenses
- Year-end summaries from financial service companies
- Stock and bond certificates; investment trade confirmations
- Deeds of property, auto titles and most recent documentation for insurance policies, especially related to pending claims
- Real estate and residence records, including those of paid mortgages and transfer / sale of property
- Health records / medical test results, wills, trusts, powers of attorney and estate-related documents
- Birth certificates as well as adoption and custody records
- Social Security cards and Social Security annual statements
- Current passports
- High school and college diplomas
- Military service information, including discharge papers
- Appraisals for jewelry, artwork, antiques, etc that you still own
- Marriage licenses
- Legal paperwork related to any divorces
- Pensions / retirement plan records as long as they're current
- Death certificates

Documents to keep for terms related to life events:
- Current homes' improvement and maintenance records until the homes are sold
- Receipts for major purchases while you own the appliance, furniture, electronics, jewelry, etc
- Current automobiles' maintenance and added accessories records until vehicles are sold
- Pet ownership and care records until taxes are filed for year when no longer part of your family

Documents to convert into electronic, shredding originals:
- Education records
- Current copy of your resume
- Employment records, including performance evaluations
- Copies of important work projects and volunteer records

What to shred and, as needed, related timetables:
- Any unwanted paper that contains your social security number
- Pre-approved credit card offers immediately upon receipt
- Expired credit cards and identification cards, like driver's licenses and student IDs
- Old bills unrelated to taxes or past time needed for tax records
- Out-of-date account statements
- Paycheck stubs after reconciled with W-2 or 1099 forms
- Brokerage and mutual fund statements after they've been reconciled at year-end
- Records of selling houses or stocks and annual investment statements once no longer needed for tax records
- Tax-related cancelled checks, W-2s, 1099s and receipts for tax-deductible expenses after 7 years
- Records of satisfied loans after 7 years
- ATM receipts, bank deposit slips and receipts for credit card charges after cleared on statements
- Receipts for minor purchases that are not deductible for taxes (like your normal groceries) and for items you no longer own or are no longer eligible for returns
- Property tax records once any related disputes are resolved
- Addresses of prior residences
- Outdated credit reports and credit scores
- Completed travel itineraries
- Old report cards
- Luggage tags that you are no longer using
- Anything no longer needed that has a copy of your signature
- Anything that includes your birthdate and / or prescription information alongside your name

Again, it's important to contact your accountant before shredding anything, just to verify any special circumstances unique to your situation. It's better to be cautious with things like this.

Plus, there's good news: With this being "shredding season", you are in luck. There are plenty of free events occurring soon for you to shred what documents you need to shred. While events across the state of North Carolina can be found online here, below is a list of the events local to the Triangle of NC area:
- Saturday, April 12th at 73 Hunter St, Apex --- 9am - noon (click here for details; limit of 3 small bags or boxes per person)
- Saturday, April 19th at Marrow-Pitt Ace Hardware, 1713 N. Main St, Tarboro --- 10am - 1pm
- Thursday, April 24th at University Mall, 201 S. Estes Dr, Chapel Hill --- 10am - 2pm (limit of 5 boxes per person)
- Saturday, April 26th at Oak Park Shopping Center, 6001 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh --- 8am - noon (limit of 3 boxes or bags per person)
- Saturday, April 26th at Hampton Pointe Recycling drop-off site, 625 Hampton Pointe Blvd, Hillsborough (behind Home Depot) --- 10am - 2pm (limit of 5 boxes per person)
- Saturday, May 3rd at Duke University Federal Credit Union, 2200 W. Main St --- 9am - 1pm
- Saturday, May 17th at Roxboro Savings Bank, 313 S. Main St, Roxboro --- 8am - 11am
- Saturday, May 17th at Coastal Federal Credit Union, 1000 St Albans Dr, Raleigh --- 8am - 12:30pm (click here for details; limit of 3 boxes or bags of documents to be shredded as well as up to 5 electronic devices to be recycled)
- Saturday, May 17th at Lafayette Village in front of Executive Office Suites, 8480 Honeycutt Rd, Raleigh --- 8am - 12:30pm (limit of 3 boxes or bags of documents to be shredded as well as up to 5 electronic devices to be recycled)

If you are unable to make any of the aforementioned events, no problem! Many businesses offer shredding services, like ProShred, Apex Shredding, OfficeMax, A Shred Ahead, Phoenix Resources Recycling and Iron Mountain. No matter which direction you take, though, please keep your confidential information safe, particularly since identity theft is such a growing issue for us all. How do you determine what to shred and do you shred in-house or with a vendor partner? If you take your documents somewhere to be shredded, which option do YOU prefer?

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