It’s that time of the year again. Everyone is in the holiday spirit, parties are in full swing, dinners are being planned and the wish lists have gotten quite long! This is the exact time of the year when it seems that everyone starts to ignore their spending and let the holiday cheer take over. Don’t let the season of giving ruin your financial progress. The end of the year is the perfect time to review the financial strides you’ve made and plan for the 2016. By analyzing your spending and following these key steps, you will place yourself in a better financial position for the New Year. Here is my Year End Financial Checklist that will help make your season brighter!
Establish or Tune Up that Emergency Fund
If you have not done so already, give yourself and/or your family the gift of an emergency fund. Keep funds that could cover at least six months worth of expenses saved and easily accessible in the form of a high yield savings account. For those that have never had much luck saving, especially if you are just starting out in your career, it may sound like a difficult task. The key is to set a savings plan and stick to it. Automating your savings each month is a sure fire way to put money aside that can grow into a nice nest egg.
Review/Refine your Budget
You may have started the year with a clear budget, but did you stick to it? Take a look at your 2015 spending patterns. Are there areas where you were consistently over budget? Were there a lot of unanticipated expenses? Did you meet your savings goals? With this year’s facts and figures in front of you, it will be easier to plan and prioritize your expenditures for next year. Check out the Busy Wife’s Guide to Setting a Budget if you need help!
Check your Credit Score
Go to annualcreditreport.com and request a free credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. You’re entitled to one free report from each agency every 12 months. Review for accuracy and if you find any discrepancies, you can submit a dispute online. Negative aspects to your report can affect your interest rates, especially when are applying for a mortgage.
Give a Tax-deductible Charitable Contribution
As you are thinking about giving this season, now is a good time to donate to a cause you believe in and benefit from it on your 2014 taxes. Just remember, a tax deduction is going to save you only a fraction of the total amount you donate. So in making that charitable contribution, do it because you really want to support the cause and not just for the potential tax write-off.
Don’t Forget to Spend down that FSA
If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) for health care expenses, you’ll need to use the bulk of it before the end of the year. The longstanding “use-or-lose” rule has been a bit upended by the U.S. Department of Treasury and the IRS. Plan sponsors now have the option to allow employees participating in health FSAs to carry over, instead of forfeiting, up to $500 of unused amounts remaining at year-end. A key difference between these types of accounts and a health savings account is that the latter allows you to roll over all your funds year to year.
Make Contributions to your 401K, 403B and/or IRA
If you’ve let retirement savings slip this year, recommit to making it a priority. Up the percentage you’re contributing to a 401(k) or IRA, or plan on making a lump sum contribution at the end of the year. If you’re self-employed, consider opening a SEP IRA or a similar small business retirement plan. The 2015 limits for a 401K or 403B is $18,00 and for IRA’s it is $5,500.
A lot of changes an occur over the year and you need to make your insurance policy is still the right fit. May sure you are not over or under-insured for your home or items in your apartment. If you do not have insurance, then now is great time to price out polices, renter’s insurance can cost as little as $15/month. The policy will protect against thief and can even cover you if something is stolen from you while traveling. Check out my insurer, Liberty Mutual for a renters or home owners insurance quote.
Re-balance Your Portfolio
Make sure you’re not becoming too weighted toward one asset class as Market movements may have thrown off your asset allocation. Check to see if your portfolio still reflects your goals and feelings about risk. If not, bring it back to your target by selling down your overweighed asset classes and buying more in underweighted classes. You also want to keep your assets balanced between domestic and international holdings.
Harvest Your Losses
Tax loss harvesting is a method of reducing your taxes by selling an investment that is trading at a significant loss and in turn replacing it with a highly correlated though not identical investment. In doing so you maintain the risk and return characteristics of your portfolio and generate losses that can be used to reduce your current taxes. The tax savings you generate can then be reinvested and will compound over time. According to research over the past 10 years, year-end tax loss harvesting would have added 0.7% to your annual after tax return.
How are you making strides to financially prepare yourself for the New Year?
Ever wonder, “Where is all my money going?”
Or notice that you never have any money left over to save?
You are not alone. Check out the Fiscal Femme’s 30 Day Money Cleanse, and empower yourself to make conscious and intentional financial decisions that maximize your happiness and achieve results beyond what you once thought possible.