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1040 tax form

Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes.There are natural disasters, man-made disasters, and personal disasters. We need a variety of things prepared and ready for any emergency. I’m sure you’ve thought about storing water, and food, and a first aid kit. Those are important. But you need to be sure you also are prepared for an emergency by having your important documents in order. There are three types of records this post will discuss: financial, personal, and family records. Some of these should be kept at home, some of them should be kept in a safe deposit box. Let’s take a look.

First, about financial records. 

Things that should be kept at home include:

  • Tax returns and substantiating paperwork (for the past 7 years)
    • Pay stubs/records
    • Bank records
    • Medical or drug receipts
    • Credit card statements
  • Warranties for cars, appliance, tools, etc.
  • Credit card numbers
  • Debts  you owe or are owed to you (or in safe deposit box)
  • Cash

And records that are best kept in a safe deposit box:

  • Insurance policies
  • Household inventories
  • Deeds, titles to properties
  • Stock and bond certificates
  • Debts you owe or are owed to you (or at home)

Next, about personal records: 

Things that should be kept at home include:

  • Personal journals
  • Medical information
  • Naturalization papers (or in safe deposit box)
  • Driver’s license
  • Social security cards or union cards
  • Diplomas, passports, vaccination records
  • Awards and certificates of achievement
  • Important letters or cards

And things that ought to be kept in a safe deposit box:

  • Will, Power of Attorney, and Advanced Directive (with a copy at home as well)
  • Divorce papers, child custody papers
  • Naturalization papers (or at home)
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Military records

And, finally, about family records: 

All of these can be kept at home, but you should have copies in other places:

  • Photo albums
  • Certain special pieces of children’s artwork or schoolwork
  • Family journals
  • Video or audio records
  • Any other special records

For those documents that should be saved for seven years, you can probably shred anything older than that. Check with your accountant if you have concerns about what needs to be kept.

Some documents don’t need to be saved as an original document. For things that can be scanned, keeping them digitally in your email or “the cloud” so that you can get to them (if you need them) from any computer is a great idea. Google documents is one example of a place where you can store documents.

Some of these records can be easily obtained from the entity that created them. For example, bank statements are usually available from the bank, but not always back a full seven years. Check with your own bank to see how long records are available from them.

These important records should be kept in a safe and accessible way, so that you will have them in the event of an emergency. If they important enough to be saved, they should be important enough to be saved properly organized.

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