Has another year really gone by? Seems impossible. For many of us, life is busy, advancing our careers, raising children, moving, and traveling just to name a few things. Still, it is important to stay financially focused, and the last quarter of the year is a great time to revisit your finances and build a plan for the upcoming year.
Here are a few things to consider as part of your year-end planning.
Review Your Investments
Rebalance your portfolio: During the year, as markets perform differently, your allocation may no longer reflect the level of risk that is appropriate for your goals. Rebalancing your portfolio will bring your investments back in line with your goals and risk tolerance.
Look for Capital Gains and Losses
Recognize capital gains or losses: Take advantage of tax-loss harvesting. Selling investments at a loss can reduce your taxable income for the year. Depending on your situation, you may also want to sell investments that have appreciated and realize those gains. Working with a financial planner or tax attorney can help you think of the strategy that works best for you.
Consider Charitable Contributions
Did you donate to the causes and charities you care about this year? You could potentially benefit from tax savings. If you noticed large long-term capital gains, consider donating the appreciated assets. You won’t have to pay the capital gains tax, and, if you itemize, you can deduct the full amount of the appreciated assets; up to 30% of AGI with carry forwards for unused deductions. If you’re over 70 ½, you may also want to consider a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) directly to a charity. The maximum contribution is $100,000 and, although a charitable deduction is not allowed for a QCD, you won’t have to include that donated amount in your taxable income. Speak with your tax advisor to get more information on these strategies.
Review Your Debt
Consider refinancing your mortgage or equity lines of credit: Interest rates are still historically low, and you could lower your monthly mortgage bill to free up cashflow. You may also be able to keep your payments the same but pay off your house faster and reduce the amount of interest paid overtime.
Check Your Credit
Consumer finance companies often provide free credit scores. If you have access, check your score to make sure it’s where you want it to be. 740 and higher is typically considered very good. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit reporting companies to provide a free copy once every 12 months as well.
Review Your Healthcare
November and December are typically the open enrollment period for health coverage. If you have an HSA (Health Savings Account) you could top off annual contributions to maximize the triple tax advantage of money going in tax free, assets growing tax free, and assets coming out tax free for qualified healthcare expenses. If you have an FSA (Flexible Spending Account), consider perhaps spending the funds that won’t be carried over to the next year as you may lose them otherwise.
Review Your Estate Plan
Rule of thumb is to review your estate planning documents every five years, or more frequently if there has been a life change such as births, marriage, deaths, divorce, retirement, etc. With the potential overhaul of tax laws changing soon, now is the time to review with your tax advisor.
Review Your Beneficiaries
It is critically important for your estate planning attorney to review your beneficiary designations as your life changes because your beneficiary designations may overrule or conflict with the plan you have established in your will or trust (unless your state law provides otherwise, but you should certainly not rely on this). Also, naming your trust as a primary or secondary beneficiary can be tricky and should only be done in consultation with your estate planning attorney.
Simply getting this process started at the end of the year may reveal opportunities or areas of improvement you hadn’t considered for the year. Speaking with a financial advisor is wise and can help ensure that you are on track to meet your financial goals.
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