10 Financial Actions to Take Before the Ball Drops
December 9, 2017
Every January, we set resolutions for the year. And then by March, we’ve usually forgotten about them. When each year seems to fly by faster than the last, it’s easy to let resolutions fall by the wayside. However, that doesn’t mean you’re out of time. There are still a few weeks left to make progress on some of your financial goals and aim to set yourself up for a successful 2018.
1. Max Out Your Retirement Savings
If possible, max out your contributions to your 401(k) by the end of the year to make the most of your retirement savings. For 2017, you can contribute as much as $18,000 (or $24,000 if you are 50 or older). You might also consider contributing to a Roth IRA. For 2017, you can contribute as much as $5,500 (or $6,500 if you are 50 or older). Keep in mind that if your income is over $196,000 and you’re married filing jointly, you won’t be eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA.
2. Consider a Roth Conversion
Roth IRAs are attractive because you don’t pay income tax when you withdraw funds in retirement. However, if you’re a high-income earner, you may not be eligible to contribute and instead invest in a Traditional IRA. If you have a Traditional IRA, you may have the opportunity to convert to a Roth IRA and save money on taxes in the long run. The deadline to convert to a Roth IRA is December 31st, so if you’ve been considering doing so, or wonder if it’s an appropriate option for you, talk to your financial advisor ASAP.
3. Avoid Gift Tax Consequences
It’s never too early to start planning for the legacy you want to leave your loved ones without sharing a good portion of it with Uncle Sam. You may want to consider gifting. Each year, you can gift up to $14,000 to as many people as you wish without those gifts counting against your lifetime exemption of $5 million. If you’ve yet to gift this year or haven’t reached $14,000, consider gifting to your children or grandchildren by December 31st.
4. Keep Up On Your Charitable Contributions
If you made a charitable contribution in 2017, you might be able to lower your total tax bill when you file early next year. It can be especially advantageous if you donated appreciated securities to avoid paying taxes on the gains. Along with your other tax documents, find and organize any receipts you have from your donations to charities, whether it was a cash, securities contribution, or another type of gift.
5. Review Your Insurance Policies
A lot can happen in a year. As you experience life changes, from the birth of a child to marriage to a new career, it’s important to regularly review your insurance coverages and your designated beneficiaries. Now is a good time to review your current insurance policies and make sure they are up-to-date. You might also want to evaluate your need for other types of insurance you may not currently have, such as long-term care insurance.
6. Talk to Your Advisor About Harvesting Losses
If you invest in bonds, mutual funds, or stocks in accounts other than your 401(k) or IRA, review your realized and unrealized gains and losses. You might be able to offset some of your gains by selling some losses. Tax-loss harvesting can help you save on taxes, but you want to make sure the move also makes financial sense for your situation. Talk with your advisor about potentially harvesting your losses and if it makes sense for you. Should you determine tax-loss harvesting is appropriate, you’ll need to complete it by December 31st.
7. Update Your Estate Plan
If you have taken the time and energy to create an estate plan, you’ll want to check in periodically to ensure all the documents are up-to-date and no major details have changed. Any major life event is a good time to think about updating your estate plan documents. If you change any of the beneficiaries in one place, such as a life insurance policy, make sure that they are consistent with the other documents so that there is no confusion.
8. Use Your Medical and Dental Benefits
Did you have good intentions of taking care of some dental work, blood tests, or other medical procedures? Now’s the time to take advantage of all your healthcare needs before your deductible resets. Dental plans, in particular, often have a maximum coverage amount, and many cover two teeth cleanings per year. If you haven’t used up the full amount and anticipate any treatments (or just need a good teeth cleaning!) make an appointment before December 31st.
9. Verify Expiring Sick and Vacation Time
Depending on your company, your sick or vacation time might expire at the end of the year. Check with your HR department to learn about any expiration dates. If your sick or vacation time does expire, fit in a last-minute vacation, a staycation, or trips to the doctor to use up these benefits. Particularly around the holidays, taking a mental health day can do a world of wonder for that end-of-the-year stress!
10. Use Your Flexible Spending Account
Like your health insurance benefits, you’ll want to use up your FSA (Flexible Spending Account) dollars by the end of the year. Your benefits won’t carry over and you’ll lose any unspent money in your account. Check the restrictions for your account to see what the money can and cannot be used for.
Do you need to take any of these steps before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve? I’d love to help you finish the year off strong and set you up for a successful 2018. Call (304) 626-3900 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you want the help of a trusted professional as you follow through on your resolutions.