I came to Personal Finance and Money really wanting to ask about how long I should keep financial documents. Initially, I just meant bills, but I realized the same question could be asked about old tax returns, receipts, bank statements, credit card statements, the list goes on. And then I realized that there would be different answers based on country and possibly even state/province.

Is my question appropriate? It's on-topic, but seems broad and could turn into a dreaded list question. If so, should it be split up into multiple questions? Marked CW? Apologies if this has been discussed before, I did try searching but couldn't think of many good keywords.

Okay, my initial wording was poor. I didn't really mean to ask whether I should be specific; the answer to that is obviously yes. But while I'm not happy with the question "how long should I keep documents," I also feel weird posting "how long should I keep US federal tax returns," "how long should I keep VA state tax returns," "how long should I keep credit card statements" and "how long should I keep copies of paid bills" all in a row. I am legitimately interested in the answers to all of those questions, but is the community okay with such serial posting?

3 Answers 3


If you have a specific list or documents you are wondering about, I'd do something like this in a single question:

I'm looking at my file cabinet and wondering, how long do I need to keep the following documents?

  • US Federal Tax Returns
  • State Tax Returns
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Utility Bills

Sometimes a long list where everything is not similar results in poor answers and you may do better to group by related topic. Maybe group the tax records together in one question and credit card statements/utility bills in another question. Unfortunately, you might not discover that your list isn't coherent until you ask the first question and that is ok.

Look at this first question and this followup question for a recent example from the money stackexchange.


It helps to make your question as specific as possible. As in your example, instead of asking about "documents", you could ask about bills, or tax returns, specifically. That would solicit answers of the right kind.

Additionally, if you think your question is specific to a given jurisdiction (country, state, province, etc.) simply tag it as such. That's a clue to people answering that you're soliciting information pertinent to your location, and it will help prevent people from answering for any location. If you want to err on the side of providing a location tag, that's fine - if it doesn't really apply, somebody may remove the tag.

The point is: It's your question, so make it pertinent to your circumstances. That's the way to get answers that are most useful to you and others in the same circumstances. Specific questions and specific answers are good.

If somebody else is interested in asking a similar question, but for another country perhaps, or with another different twist, they're free to do that, and if there's something different in what they are asking, that's also a good question. (But if it's a 100% duplicate, it is likely to get closed.)


When I ask questions, I go for a broad title (so folks find it relevant) and they make my case in the body.

Generally what I want What I think, and maybe why I think it Some specific questions / guidance on how to answer me

That way I think I will really get what I am after. At least I have some points that answers can touch upon, and then expand with whatever else I don't now.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .