This year is quickly coming to a close, and if you’re like most Americans, you spend the month of December neck-deep in Christmas parties, shopping for gifts, and planning for travel. You might think that managing your finances can wait as you deal with the holiday busyness, but since finance-related resolutions take third place for most popular New Year’s resolution, (1) why don’t you give yourself a head start on your 2019 financial goals? Here are 5 critical financial actions you’ll be glad you tackled when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve!
1. Maximize 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 2018, you can contribute as much as $18,500 (or $24,500 if you are age 50 or older). Remember, these are your contribution limits, and any employer match is on top of this amount. You might also consider contributing to a Roth IRA. For 2018, you can contribute as much as $5,500 (or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older). Keep in mind that if your income is over $199,000 and you’re married filing jointly, you won’t be eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. Finish the year strong by investing in your future!
2. Take Advantage Of Your Employer Benefits
While every employer has different rules for the benefits they offer to their employees, many benefits expire or reset at the end of the year. You work hard for these perks, so be sure to use them up!
Medical And Dental Benefits
Did you have good intentions of taking care of some dental work, blood tests, or other medical procedures in 2018? 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. If you haven’t used up the full amount and anticipate any treatments, make an appointment before December 31st.
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.
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.
3. Verify RMDs
If you’re retired, review your retirement accounts’ required minimum distributions (RMDs). An RMD is the annual payout savers must take from their retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs, and traditional IRAs, when they turn 70½. If you don’t, you may face the steep penalty of 50% of the distribution you should have taken. If you don’t need your RMD money to live on, consider donating the funds to a worthy cause, which could also lessen your tax burden for the year. To calculate your RMD, use one of the IRS worksheets.
4. Review Your Gifting And Estate Plans
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 significant 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.
If gifting is one of your long-term financial goals, 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.
Each year you can gift up to $15,000 to as many people as you wish without those gifts counting against your lifetime exemption of $5.6 million. If you’ve yet to gift this year or haven’t reached $15,000, consider gifting to your children or grandchildren by December 31st.
If you made a charitable contribution in 2018, 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. Talk To Your Kids About Money
The holidays are typically a time for families to get together and reconnect. Use this time intentionally by talking with your kids about money. No matter how old they are, you can give them sound wisdom that will set them up for success. Make sure they understand the importance of saving for retirement and having the proper amount of insurance coverage. Share with them your financial philosophy, and teach them your tips and tricks for everything from budgeting to investing. This is one financial action that will reap benefits for years to come.
Get Started Now!
Do you need to take any of these steps before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve? The team at ClearVista Financial would love to help you finish the year off strong and set you up for a successful 2019. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 800-491-4508, or book your free introductory meeting online today!
Mark Trice is an independent financial advisor with nearly a decade of experience in the industry. As the founder of ClearVista Financial, his mission is to help people find financial balance in their lives and to spend life well. Along with providing financial planning and retirement planning to pre-retirees and 401(k) plan participants, he is also an educator. He currently holds the designation of a Certified Financial Educator® through the Heartland Institute of Financial Education. Mark has offices in Austin, Brownwood, Temple, Houston, and Waco, Texas. Along with serving clients in Texas, he also works with individuals in California, Colorado, West Virginia, and Virginia. To learn more, visit www.clearvistafinancial.com or connect with Mark on LinkedIn.