Developing Your Record Keeping Skills

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It can be a lot of work keeping track of your financial obligations, but it’s worth the effort: you’re able to stay on time and on budget more easily and avoid paying penalties for late payments. The same goes for record keeping: if you’re about to apply for loans or financial services, the ability to quickly look back at your records with accuracy and confidence makes a huge difference.

The Canada Revenue Agency provides a helpful guide to how long you should keep certain documents.

  • Bank withdrawal and deposit slips: Check your bank statement to make sure the amounts match up and then shred.
  • Receipts: Enter them into your monthly budget and then shred, unless you paid with a credit card. In that case, wait until your monthly statement arrives and double check that the amounts are correct. Then you can shred the receipt.┬áKeep your receipt if you purchased something with a warranty (keep it until your warranty expires or you no longer own the item).

Keep for 1 Year

  • Monthly Bank Statements: Keep these for 1 year, unless you have your own business, in which case you should hold on to them for 6 years.
  • Monthly Brokerage/Mutual Fund Statements: Reconcile with your annual statement and then shred.
  • Monthly Credit Card Statements: Keep these for 1 year, unless you have your own business and have purchased items with your credit card, then you would keep the statement for 6 years.
  • Monthly Mortgage Statements: Reconcile with your annual statement and then shred.
  • Pay Stubs: Reconcile with your T4 and then shred.
  • Utility Bills: helpful to compare to your current year
  • Internet, Telephone & Utility Bills: Keeping them for a year allows you to compare rates if needed. If you own your own business and can write off these expenses, then you should keep the bills for 6 years.

Keep for 6 Years

  • Tax Returns: Starting from the end of the tax year relating to the records.
  • All T4 Forms: Starting from the end of the tax year relating to the records.
  • Annual Mortgage Statements
  • Receipts & Statements for Tax Returns, including: donations, RRSP contributions, child care receipts, mortgage interest, medical expenses, property tax payments, alimony/child support paid or received, etc. (Starting from the end of the tax year relating to the records.)

Keep Forever

  • Adoption Records
  • Auto/Home/Life Insurance Policy Information: Keep as long as the policy is still active and then shred.
  • Auto Records: Keep as long as you own the vehicle.
  • Birth Certificate
  • Death Certificate(s)
  • Divorce Agreement/Child Custody Orders
  • Estate: Keep your will and power of attorney with a list of your financial contacts
  • Investment Records
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Medical Records
  • Military Records
  • Pension Plan Records
  • Real Estate paperwork and mortgage contracts
  • Receipts for major home improvements: Keep until you no longer own the home.
  • Warranties: For electronics and appliances. Toss when they expire.
  • Will and/or Power of Attorney

Store all of your financial paperwork in a cool, dry place. Some people will recommend keeping your permanent records in a home safe, or in a bank safety deposit box.

Remember that if you do own your own business, you need to keep your business paperwork separate from your personal paperwork, to avoid hassles if you are audited.

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