How Long to Keep Documents

File folders can be helpful when storing important documents.

Wondering how long to keep documents? First, determine what the document is. For example, if a document includes monetary information, such as pay stubs or loan statements, these would be categorized under financial documents. Most financial documents are stored by the year and held onto for a number years for later financial auditing, if necessary. Other categories include identification, contractual, education and personal.

Financial Documents

Keep income and expenses, bills and other financial documents, such as monthly bank statements, for up to a year. However, when archiving financial records for tax purposes, you should keep business and personal financial documents, like receipts, for up to 10 years in case you get audited.

Indentification Documents

An identification document is proof of an individual's age and given birth name, such as a birth certificate or a driver's license. These documents should be kept for life, relatively at hand, at the request of legal authorities. A state-issued non-driver's license is also a form of documented identification that must be renewed upon expiration, like a driver's license.

Contractual Documents

Contractual documents are any written agreements between an individual and a third party for the exchange or sale of goods or services. These goods or services may be a house or car, which would include any lease agreements or property deeds, or warranties on property purchased. In any case, a contractual document has a designated maturity or termination date for the document, which can also be the designated date to discard the document.

Educational Records

Storing graded research papers, and the like, in a shoebox or collapsible folder, can be beneficial for later use when archiving educational documents per semester. With the semester's archived work, a student can review his earlier work for a mid-term or final, as well as dispute final grades if the need arises.

For other educational documents, like promissory notes or student loan statements, try archiving these documents in the financial category. This will help you stay abreast of financial obligations.

Personal Records

Personal records are documents such as a marriage certificate, college degree and medical records that are sensitive pieces that are of significant value. These items should always be stored in a safe place or put away, as these items are not typically presented in public. A certificate or degree can be framed and mounted to preserve it and displayed privately at home or in an office.