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To Shred, or Not to Shred?

Q. What documents should I shred?

A. Start by shredding junk mail and old papers that carry your Social Security number (but don’t destroy your Social Security card), birth date, signature, account numbers, passwords or PINs.

Shred deposit slips and ATM and credit card receipts immediately after you get your monthly statements. Shred used airline tickets, unneeded medical bills, preapproved credit card applications and expired IDs such as driver’s licenses, medical insurance cards and passports.

Some more shredding advice:

• Hold on to bank statements and canceled checks (or copies) for one year, but keep checks needed for your tax returns—such as charitable donations or tax payments—for seven years.

• Papers and checks related to a home purchase or sale, or improvements, and contributions made to an IRA, should be kept indefinitely.

• Shred paycheck stubs after the income is noted on a W-2 or other tax form (this is one reason why community shredding events often occur in the spring, after tax season).

• Shred monthly retirement and investment account statements after you get the annual statement for the entire year. Keep the annual statement indefinitely.

• Keep utility bills for one year if you want to compare that month’s costs to the previous year. Otherwise, shred them sooner.

What not to shred:

• Do not shred original Social Security cards, birth certificates, mortgage paperwork, deeds or wills. However, some experts recommend shredding unneeded photocopies of those documents.

Send queries to: Ask Sid, 601 E St. N.W., Washington, DC, 20049 or e-mail ask sid@aarp.org. We regret we can’t answer all of them.

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