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Financial Records: Keep them forever!

As my beloved dean and her crafty colleagues were feting me for my alleged 15th year of labor at the Great Desert University, it occurred to me to wonder, again, why they think I’ve been there 15 years when I think I’ve been there 16 years. If they’re right, then my CV is wrong. If they’re wrong, then I’m about to get shorted a significant amount of severance pay. Luckily, I keep every shred of paper that even vaguely resembles financial records.

Yesterday afternoon, I got into the dusty old file cabinet that resides in the garage. What should I find but a tax return strongly suggesting that GDU paid me for a lot more than one adjunct section! A little more excavation, and up came a file folder packed with old pay statements.

And yea, verily. My first full-time paycheck was issued in August 1993: sixteen long years ago.

This means HR is either one semester or one full year off in its records. That error is worth either $720 or $1,440 to me. When employees have been with the state for a while, their sick leave accrues. At 500 hours, it’s worth 1/3 of your hourly rate when you leave your job for whatever reason; at 1,000 hours it’s worth 1/2 your hourly rate. I have almost 1,200 hours.

At the time, sick leave was accruing at the rate of 4 hours a paycheck, adding as much as 96 hours to my present accrual (assuming HR’s records are a full year off). At $15 per hour, that totes up to a nice sum, even if they’re only off a half-year.

Keep your financial records! Store them in a safe place, and keep them forever, not for the seven years recommended by tax experts. If I hadn’t squirreled all my old paychecks away, I would have no way of proving when I really started full-time at GDU.

I learned this trick from my ex-husband, a corporate lawyer. He kept every scrap of paper that had anything to do with anything. He was so extreme that he had all our canceled checks returned to us, and he stored them tidily in a bureau drawer. Year after year after year of canceled checks, all lined up like little micron-thick soldiers…

Well, I’m don’t go that far, but I do keep my pay statements, my tax returns, and receipts for major purchases such as the roof job, appliances, and computers. Anything that’s tax-related probably should be stored permanently. Clutter? Yes. It’s a nuisance to find room for a four-drawer file cabinet and stash all this junk in it.

But. The squirreling habit paid off for me yesterday.

5 thoughts on “Financial Records: Keep them forever!”

  1. I’m SO glad your good habit worked out for you yesterday. And a great reminder to ALWAYS save pay stubs, tax returns, etc.

  2. Amazing! Once upon a time, everything was fair game for filing. Eventually, I thought I kept records too long, but apparently there can’t be a “too long”! Actually, I did go through all the records, scanned everything and shredded them, but I hope that is sufficient proof for whatever I need in the future. And the records have gotten a bit sloppy since transitioning to this all-electronic thing.

  3. At Costco a while back, I spotted a piece of PC-compatible hardware that allows you to scan receipts to Quicken or Excel. You just stick the piece of paper into a slot and away it goes.

    Having a Mac, I elected not to try it. But one might find something like that at an electronics store, which could do better than an ordinary scanner at simplifying life. Or…complicating it.

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