Maximize your end of the year financial situation


The year’s end brings about a chance to square things away, wrapping up the year in as nice and neat a bow as possible. It’s especially the perfect time to get your financial affairs in order so that you start the upcoming year on the right foot. Here are 10 easy, smart money moves to get you squared away and back to enjoying this festive season:

  1. Size Up Your Portfolio — The ups and downs of the stock market in the past year may have left your stocks and bonds portfolio shaken up, but try to make sure you’ve maintained a level of diversity that works for your current financial lifestyle.
  2. Make Your Losses Work for You — Offset the tax bill of capital gains with capital losses (i.e. tax harvesting); in other words, sell low performing stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to reduce the taxability of winning investments. Keep your overall financial plan in mind though.
  3. Be Altruistic (and Reduce Your Taxable Income) — If you’ve been wanting to donate to lower your 2015 tax bill, make sure you do so by December 31. Clean out closets and donate your old clothes and useable household goods; just make sure you grab a receipt after each transaction. Also, don’t forget your folks. Up to $14,000 a year can be given to family members without incurring any gift taxes, helping to reduce the amount of your estate.
  4. Bundle Up Those Write-Offs — Combine two years’ worth of itemized deductions into a single year to maximize deductions; this comes in handy for those expecting to earn a higher income in the following year.
  5. Max and Match: Reduce Your Taxable Income and Save, Too — Check to see if you can make a sort of year end contribution to your 401(k) or 403(b), particularly if you aren’t slated to meet the total amount your employer matches. Also, consider making a contribution to an IRA from either you or your spouse.
  6. Use the Money in Your Flexible Spending Account — There are two types of flexible spending accounts that allow you to set aside pretax money and then reimburse yourself, with calendar-year “use-it-or-lose-it” deadlines: health care and dependent care. Employers can allow participants to carry over up to $500 in unused funds into next year, so make sure your balance doesn’t exceed that.
  7. Do a Financial Reality Check — Understanding how you are saving and spending can be a valuable step to helping put your financial house in order. You don’t necessarily need to manage every penny.
  8. Check the Beneficiaries on Financial Accounts — When reviewing your investments, also make sure you have designated a beneficiary for each account. This can be as important as writing a will, but it isn’t as complex. It is especially important if there have been changes in your life, such as a birth, a death, or a change in marital status.
  9. Consider Converting an IRA into a Roth IRA for Tax-Free Growth — You may be able to convert existing money in a traditional IRA or other retirement savings account into a Roth IRA. Try to convert a more targeted amount to ensure that the income from the conversion doesn’t bump you into a higher income tax bracket.
  10. 5 or Older? Take Your Minimum Required Distribution — IRS regulations generally require you to withdraw a minimum amount of money each year from your tax-deferred retirement accounts, like traditional IRAs and 401(k) plans, or pay penalties of up to 50% of your minimum required distribution (MRD).

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