As we approach the end of the year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year and focus on the opportunities that lie ahead. It’s also a great time to review your financial plan to ensure it aligns with your goals.
Here are some year-end planning tips that can help set you up for success:
Define your goals. Having clarity around important personal, financial or business goals is extremely important. This becomes the "north star" and helps you with decision making forward. The more precise and specific your goals the better and increased likelihood of achieving of the goal. When thinking about the appropriate amount of goals I would reference what Jim Collins states in his best selling book, Good to Great, "if you have more than 3 priorities you have none."
- Define your personal budget. You can easily set next year's budget when you understand the past year's cash flow and expenses. Creating a budget can help you better manage future financial commitments, save for retirement, and work toward your goals. For simplicity sake add up all automatic withdrawals and average out your monthly credit card bills to see what you truly spend throughout the year. If you are running a deficit then you will need to dig into your expenses more thoroughly and see where you can make cuts. Being mindful of where you are spending money is extremely important.
- Assess your tax situation. Neglecting to assess your tax situation at the end of the year can lead to financial consequences and missed opportunities at tax time. Planning for your taxes at the end of the year can help you save significant money in the long run. Be proactive in your tax planning by considering capital gains, deductions, losses, and tax credits. Where appropriate if you are expecting a big increase in your income, touch base and we can discuss modeling the impact from a tax perspective.
- Increase your retirement contributions. Increasing your contribution towards your retirement savings accounts is a strategic year-end planning tip. Max out your 401(k), IRA, and other tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicles to take advantage of reducing your taxable income by the end of the year and save more now. The compounding effect of tax savings over time can be substantial.
- Evaluate your investment strategies. Review your investment portfolio at year-end to gauge its performance and take corrective actions. Whether you need to rebalance your portfolio or sell underperforming assets, a thorough yearly analysis can help determine if your portfolio aligns with your risk, timeline, and goals. Additionally, as you get closer to the retirement red zone (within 10 years) we also encourage clients to ideally have investments into 4 key buckets: cash/cash equivalents, Traditional retirement accounts (IRA, 401(K)), Roth retirement accounts (IRA, 401(K) and taxable investment accounts.
- Review your employer-sponsored benefits. Review your flexible spending (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA) before the year ends. If you don't use your FSA benefits, you may risk losing unspent funds at the end of the year. If you need more clarification, check with your HR department about your FSA and HSA or which medical expenses are eligible for reimbursement. If you are contributing to an HSA please touch base to see if it makes sense to continue to defer the funds.
- Consider charitable giving. Whether for philanthropic purposes or a tax deduction, end-of-year charitable giving is a staple for many throughout their planning process. If you plan to donate, consider doing so before the year ends to claim deductions on this year's tax return when you file in the New Year. Remember to track your donations carefully and keep records for tax filing.
- Update your estate plan. Set aside time to review your estate planning documents before year-end. These documents may include your will, power of attorney, and healthcare directive. Ensure these documents reflect your wishes and that your beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets are current.
The end of the year can bring a fresh perspective to financial planning. If you have any questions or you’re considering making some changes, let’s connect. We would be happy to help you feel more confident with your finances going into new year.
Courtesy of Fresh Finance.