The papers start coming, and they don't stop coming.
From bank statements to IRS documents to vehicle titles, people must decide what to file away and what to toss.
Janell Sluga, certified geriatric care manager with Senior Life Matters, a program of Lutheran Social Services, provided help to more than 100 area residents recently as part of the Best of Times Seminar Series, meant to help people plan well to age well.
Janell Sluga, certified geriatric care manager with Senior Life Matters, a program of Lutheran Social Services, talks with Gayle Schulte about managing all the documents she has received over time and demonstrates one of the many options available for shredding.
Called "The Paper Chase," Sluga's lecture focused on which types of documents people should keep and when and why they should lose the rest of them.
"You don't have to keep everything, and you don't have to keep everything forever, but some things are really important to keep, like birth certificates, marriage certificates and divorce certificates," Sluga said. "As far as financial statements, you should keep those for at least five years. To shred them after you balance your checkbook is a really bad idea. By saving your bank statements for five years, if you ever apply for Medicaid or if you ever have problems with the IRS, you have proof of your assets, your income and how your spent your money."
After the five year period, if the financial documents have been stored together by year, those documents will be easy to find and shred. Everything doesn't need to be shredded, however, according to Sluga.
"Some people shred their junk mail," she said. "That's overkill. You don't need to do that."
Sluga recommends regularly ridding file cabinets of paperwork that is no longer of use, including old vehicle titles or records related to deceased pets.
Those who attended the lecture, held at Edgewood Communities, came away with some new ideas.
"My husband is very good at filing things correctly, but it's still too much," said Lennie Mays. "I learned a few tips that I never had thought about. We'll do things a little differently."
"One of the best ideas Janell shared was to photocopy all important information I carry in my wallet," added Barbara Sweet. "If my wallet were ever lost or stolen, I would have all the numbers and information I need at home."
Sluga did her best to not add to the attendees' piles of paper. She gave each of them just one sheet with tips on what to keep and what to lose.
Here's an excerpt from her sheet:
WHAT TO KEEP
Birth, marriage, death and divorce certificates
Citizen and adoption papers
Social Security Card
Power of attorney
Health care proxy/living will
WHAT TO KEEP AS LONG AS YOU HAVE THE ASSET:
Property deeds and taxes
Purchase and warranty documents
WHAT TO KEEP FOR SEVEN YEARS:
WHAT TO KEEP FOR FIVE YEARS:
Insurance cards with year of coverage written on them
Explanation of benefits/medical bills