With 2017 almost over, what should we be focusing on in 2018?
Amid all of the holiday cheer, it is smart to take some time at the end of the year to take stock of your financial wellbeing, and review things like your retirement accounts, and your insurance needs. Just a few actions can improve your financial health and preparedness, and help you start off the New Year on the right foot.
I would recommend starting with your retirement accounts. The first thing you want to do is make sure your portfolio reflects your retirement goals. For example, if you have not reviewed your account in a while, you may have more or less exposure to risk than you want. Now is a good time to reach out to your financial advisor to discuss whether your portfolio allocation reflects your current goal.
The end of the year is also a good time to make sure you are not leaving any money on the table. If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, that means contributing enough to your retirement account to receive the maximum employer match.
After all, that is free money. In the same vein, if you have an IRA, you may want to increase your contributions if you haven’t reached the limit for the year. Like your 401(k), these pre-tax contributions can reduce your tax burden come April, saving you some green.
Finally, if you are not yet saving for retirement, the end of the year is as good a time as any. If you open an account now, and automate your contributions, you will be in much better financial shape this time next year.
You mentioned insurance. What do we need to know?
Now is the time to review your insurance coverage. Start with health insurance. The open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act ends on December 15, so if you receive coverage through healthcare.gov or your state marketplace, you need to review your needs and make any changes by the end of this week.
Most companies also have their open enrollment period during the end of the year, so the same is true if you get health insurance through your employer. Remember, not only do you want to make sure you have health insurance, but if you do not you will pay a fee when you file your taxes.
You also want to consider your other insurance needs, including life, disability, home, and auto insurance. Again, if your employer offers life and disability insurance, you can only make changes during open enrollment, so now is a great time to make sure all of your insurance needs are up to date. It is also a good time to ensure you are not overpaying. Take a look at your deductibles, and consider whether it may be worth it to shop around to see if you can find more affordable options.
Anything else we should do before 2018?
There are a few other items you want to keep in mind. First, review your estate planning. If you have had life changes – you have recently been married or divorced, you had a new child – you want to account for that in your will, and you want to update your beneficiaries on your insurance policies and retirement accounts. In general, the end of the year is a good time to review your estate planning decisions.
It is also a good time to think about the upcoming tax season, and how you can save a little green come April 15. For example, you may want to consider prepaying your taxes. Because you can deduct the payment of state and local income and sales taxes, real estate taxes, and personal property taxes on your federal income tax return, if you can pay a little early you can take the deduction this year. Additionally, consider paying your January mortgage payment in December. If you do, you can deduct the interest from your taxes this year.
Finally, remember that a little holiday generosity can help you on your taxes. You can receive tax deductions by donating to any recognized charitable cause of your choice, and as long as you itemize your donations, you can claim everything from cash donations to goods to used vehicle donations. Just be sure to get a signed and dated receipt from the charity, noting the amount of your contribution. You can spread some joy and save some green at the same time!
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