2015 is almost over and so, I thought I would share a year-end financial checklist. And it’s short. On purpose. This certainly doesn’t cover everything you could do, and of course everyone’s situation is different, but here are 5 things you might want to think about as the year wraps up. (In a couple of weeks we’ll talk about some final year-end to-dos and also setting financial goals for 2016.)
1. Contribute to your 401(k) or other contributory retirement plan. I talked about 401(k) plans in a prior post and encouraged you to look at how much you’re contributing and if you could increase that amount for the last couple of paychecks you will receive this calendar year. Depending on your pay schedule, you may still have one more opportunity to do so. If you can contribute a little more, do so. Or, consider how much you could increase your contribution in 2016. Make the change now so you don’t have to think about it and adjust later. Note: Your employee contributions must be made within the calendar year, and the maximum employee contribution is $18,000 for 2015, if you’re under 50.
2. Contribute to a Roth and/or Traditional IRA, if you have one. While you can contribute for 2015 through your tax due date (April 15, 2016 for most of us), I find it easier to account for these contributions during the calendar year because that’s how I plan my other financial goals. If you have an IRA and are able to contribute, have you done so? Could you now? (The maximum combined contribution limit among all your IRAs is $5,500 for 2015, again if you’re under 50.)
3. I also find it helpful if I collect my relevant tax documents throughout the year and keep them all in one place. If you haven’t done so throughout the year, now would be a good time to start organizing them. (Note that for taxable investment accounts, you likely won’t get the necessary tax documents for another couple of months, and you’ll have to wait for your W2s, but you can collect the documentation you need for your expenses from the year, which you plan to itemize and deduct.)
4. Which brings me to…charitable giving. If you itemize deductions on your tax return, charitable giving is a great way to increase your deductions, which helps to lower your tax bill. Plus, it’s just a generally good thing to do. Consider doing some charitable giving around the holidays. Or, if you’ve thought about donating some items from your house, collect them and donate them before the end of the year. If nothing else, go through your closet and clear out a few of the things you haven’t worn in the last year and then donate those items. Be sure to keep a list of the items you donate and the estimated dollar value of each item (if you tried to sell them now), in addition to the receipt from the place where you donate. (I’ve also heard Turbo Tax does a good job of giving you an estimated value for each item you donate, but you’ll still need the list of what you donated.)
5. Make time for that one financial to-do that has been on your mind, so you can get it done and stop thinking about it. This might be taking the time to open a Roth IRA or shopping around for renters insurance or life insurance. It might be scheduling an appointment with a lawyer to draft your will and other estate planning documents. Maybe it’s reviewing your last month of spending. Whatever it is, schedule the appointment and/or block off the time so you are sure to get it done. Pick one thing and decide when you’re going to do it, even if it’s after the holidays. Block off the time and make it happen.
What’s on your list?
Good luck getting a few of these things done. If it helps, set a time limit and see how much you can get done during the allotted time. And I promise I’ll go easy on you next week – it is Christmas after all!