A person holding a bag of shredded documents in front of a shredded paper disposal bin.

Protect Your Identity & Shred

Updated October 3, 2019 . AmFam Team

Declutter your home and protect your identity at the same time by following these tips on what documents to shred from American Family Insurance.

Receipts, bank statements, pay stubs, tax documents — personal paperwork stacks up fast and takes up a lot of space. We’ve got a guide to help you decide what to save and what to shred. It’s time to get organized!

Protecting your identity and decluttering your home are two good reasons to go out and buy a shredder, if you haven’t already. Once you’ve got one, it’s time to sit down with your junk mail, taxes and other papers around the house and get to work.

Why Shred Anyway?

Shredding documents, whether it’s junk mail or an expired credit card, can help keep your identity safe from thieves or unscrupulous businesses that sell information. Anything with your name and address on it can be used to sign up for mailing lists, and this information can be enough for someone to find out more about you, like your bank account or social security number.

Keeping that information out of the wrong hands can be as simple as shredding your documents with a cross or micro cut shredder. While the classic strip shredder may be more easily available, both the cross cut and micro cut types turn your unwanted documents into tiny little paper bits that can’t be feasibly put back together.

Home office-sized shredders can be as inexpensive as $35 and go up into the hundreds for features like larger baskets, credit card shredding and the ability to shred a thick stack of papers all at once.

What Should You Keep?

While it may be tempting to purge your home of papers completely, there are a few important things you’ll need to save. Documents like your birth certificate, social security card, marriage license and the past seven years of tax information should be filed in a secure location rather than shredded. Here are a few more things you should keep safely stored in your home:

  • Copies of your passport
  • Adoption papers
  • Death certificates of any relatives
  • Will, living will and power of attorney paperwork
  • Military service records
  • Estate planning documents
  • Loan and mortgage paperwork
  • Home and vehicle titles and deeds
  • Legally binding contracts
  • Proof of insurance papers

Don’t forget about the paperwork you have stored electronically, like receipts for online orders or medical records. If they’re still relevant, there’s no need to delete, but if they’re out-of-date, like a warranty for a car you no longer own, you’re safe to dump those documents. If it’s something truly important, like a living pet’s medical records, you may be better served by printing it out and adding it to your safe with the other paperwork.

What Should You Shred?

In your efforts to declutter, you may find yourself saving a lot more than shredding out of caution. We’re here to tell you that you can safely shred quite a few things, including your fast food receipts and junk mail credit card offers. When committing to the Big Shred, here are some things you can safely dump:

  • ATM receipts
  • Paid utility bills
  • Expired warranties
  • Canceled checks
  • Cashed or deposited checks
  • Junk mail
  • Paid credit card statements

Insurance for Identity Theft Protection

Your shredded papers can be recycled or even reused in a family papier-mâché project — the sky’s the limit. But rest assured that properly shredded documents are an important part of keeping your identity safe and sound. If you’re interested in learning more about how your insurance can help you protect your identity, connect with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to discuss adding identity theft protection to your home insurance. This coverage can help you recover faster from the effects of identity theft should the unexpected happen.

We’ve also partnered with CyberScout to bring you a credit monitoring service that can help you keep an eye on your credit score and any fraudulent purchases made using your identity. You can also speak with a credit monitoring specialist to help you navigate what to do should someone steal your identity. Annual plans start at $40 and include email alerts on any changes related to your credit.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. You should contact a professional for advice specific to your situation.

Related Articles

  • Family of four walking hand in hand down beach
    Family of four walking hand in hand down beach
    Ways to Save Money for a Family Trip

    Among the many joys of being a parent is the opportunity to share your passions with your children. From exploring your favorite hobbies to diving into cherished family recipes, as your kids grow so do the memories you create together.

    Going on vacation with your children is a great way to bond with them, but it can get costly. The good news is that getting out of town doesn’t have to break the bank. Plan for your next family adventure by exploring the tips in these family vacation FAQs.

  • Man using entering his credit card info into his cellphone.
    Man using entering his credit card info into his cellphone.
    Credit and Identity Theft Monitoring

    Protecting your home with a security system and locking your doors when you leave for the day are measures you might take to protect your home from intruders. Credit and identity theft monitoring are a type of “security system” that protects you from intruders gaining access to your personal information. From credit fraud to identity theft, everyone is susceptible to these types of breaches — that’s why it’s so important to defend yourself against them.

    Credit monitoring and identity theft protection are two different ways to proactively protect yourself if your personal information gets into the wrong hands. Let’s take a look at the differences and why it’s important to implement them both together.

  • Couple looking at housing prices
    Couple looking at housing prices
    Saving for a House

    There are a few defining moments in our lives. For some, it’s the realization that buying that first home is within reach, both financially and emotionally. It’s a big step, and it’s one that’s built into the American dream. And if you’re left wondering how much money you should save before buying a house, you’re not alone. These costs can add up quickly.

    After you’ve made the big decision to start shopping for a home, you might be surprised to find that coming up with the cash down payment is only one of several financial hurdles you’ll need to clear. Exactly how much you should save for a house depends on a number of factors, like the value of the home you’re targeting and the amount of money you intend on pushing into your down payment.

  • A white woman budgets for saving money using a calculator at a cafe.
    A white redheaded woman works on her budget for saving money with a calculator at a cafe.
    Pay Off Student Loans or Buy a House?

    After college, life moves fast. You get your first big job, move out of your parents’ house and start a whole new life on your own. For most people, this also means paying off student loan debt from your college tuition. Having this debt may make big milestones like buying a house seem far off, but there are ways to make the leap from renter to homeowner even if you have student loans. So can you get a mortgage while also paying off student debt? Or should you wait to pay it off before you buy a house?

    Every situation is different, so it’s important to do the right research and choose the best option for you. Luckily, we’ve done some of the breakdown for you to help you decide whether to pay off your student loan entirely or buy a house.

    Can Student Loans Affect Buying a House?

    Typically, student loan debt doesn’t prevent you from getting a mortgage. The biggest thing to note is that student loan debt does influence your debt-to-income ratio, which is a factor lenders consider before giving you a loan. It can also affect the interest rate you pay on your mortgage.

    Buying a house with defaulted student loans

    If you’ve defaulted on your student loans, it’ll be more difficult — but not impossible — for you to get a mortgage. Because defaulting negatively affects your credit score, lenders will be less likely to want to give you a loan or will charge a much higher interest rate on a loan.

    Getting a home loan with student loan deferment

    If you’ve deferred your student loans, this usually won’t affect your chances of getting a mortgage. Just be sure to consider how the future estimated payments will factor your debt-to-income ratio. Some types of mortgages may reject applicants with deferred loans, so do your research on the different types of mortgages before shopping.

    Should You Pay Off Student Loans Before Buying a House?

    Buying a house is expensive, there’s no doubt about that. It can seem smart to hold off on house shopping while you still have student loan debt, and it can be even more difficult to save for a house if you’ve got a high debt-to-income ratio. But if you have enough income to handle the payments for both, you may want to consider investing in your first home.

    Signs You Should Pay Off Student Loans

    When considering whether to pay student loans or save for a house, there are a few factors that can help you decide if paying off your student loans should be a priority.

    Your debt-to-income ratio is too high

    If the amount of money you bring in monthly or yearly is almost the same as the amount of money you pay out in debts — like student and car loans or credit cards — it may be best to pay down your debt before buying a house.

    You’ve defaulted on your loans

    Defaulting on your loans has a severe negative impact on your credit score, which tells lenders that you’re a bigger risk to take on. Work on improving your credit score before shopping for a mortgage.

    You’re struggling to make payments

    If you feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to make payments on your loan every month, it’s best to hold off on saving for a house. Need help keeping track of your student loan payments? Try our student loan payment tracker to get organized.

    You haven’t saved for a down payment or emergency fund

    Before you start picking out which houses you want to tour, you should take a look at your savings. If you don’t have enough for a 5 to 10 percent down payment or enough as an emergency fund for home expenses — like a broken dishwasher or damaged roof — take more time to put money away for your first home.