December is a great time to review your finances and get ready for a fresh start in the new year. Here are five key financial moves that are worth reviewing before year end:
Review your goals and financial progress
If you’ve laid out a plan to achieve your key goals such as retirement or saving for a child’s education, now is a good time to measure your progress. Are you on track or do you need to make adjustments? If you don’t have a clear plan, now is a good time to establish one for 2018.
Take full advantage of your retirement savings opportunities
If you participate in a workplace savings plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), try to maximize your pre-tax contributions. In 2017, you can defer up to $18,000 per year or $24,000 per year for those 50 and older, into a retirement plan. Your contribution reduces your pre-tax income, providing an immediate tax savings, while any earnings in the account grow on a tax-deferred (for traditional retirement plans) or tax-free (for Roth retirement plans) basis.
If you have an individual retirement account (IRA), you have until the April 17, 2018 tax filing deadline to make traditional or Roth contributions for 2017. The sooner you do so, the sooner those dollars can be invested and start building for the future on a tax-deferred basis. You can contribute up to $5,500 per year of your taxable compensation; up to $6,500 for those 50 and older. Note that contributions for the 2018 tax year can be made as early as January 1, 2018.
Assess your investment portfolio
Are you properly positioned in your investments? Given the solid performance delivered by the stock market in 2017, many may discover their portfolios are overweight in equities. Determine whether it may be time to re-balance your portfolio to avoid taking on too much risk for your comfort level.
For your taxable investments, consider the potential tax consequences before making any decisions about selling positions that could generate a capital gain. Similarly, you could sell positions that will generate a capital loss to offset other gains and potentially reduce your tax burden. First consult with your investment and tax advisors to determine the best strategy for your situation.
Check on mutual fund distributions
Most mutual funds pay out distributions (reflecting realized capital gains and dividends earned from securities held in the fund) by the end of the year. Check to see what to expect from funds you own, particularly in taxable accounts. If you are considering moving money into a new fund, you may want to wait until the fund has paid its distribution so you don’t inherit a taxable gain shortly after you invest.
Make timely charitable donations
If you itemize deductions on your taxes, you can generally deduct the cash or the fair market value of goods donated to a qualified nonprofit. The contributions must occur before the end of the year to be included on your 2017 tax return as a qualified deduction. Be sure to maintain proper documentation.
As you decide what actions to take before year end, consider sitting down with your financial advisor who can help you evaluate your options. A trusted professional can help you have confidence that the steps you take are beneficial not just today, but also for the long term.