Financial planning for the year can be a little daunting. It’s the beginning of the year and there are a lot of moving parts, both personally and financially. Don’t let the fear of a tax deadline or first quarter blues get you down. Below is a simple, but helpful checklist designed to prep you for the beginning of the year and your future.
End of the Year:
1. Schedule a meeting with your financial planner or accountant. A financial planner can help someone segment and prioritize goals for 2018.
2. Donate to charity. December 31 is the deadline for charitable contributions if you plan to deduct them from your 2018 tax return.
3. Max out retirement contributions. You have until you file your tax return next spring to make a 2018 contribution to an individual retirement account (IRA), but 401(k) contributions are only deductible when made in the same calendar year. If you want to establish a retirement plan for 2018, the plan documents also must be signed and put into place in 2018, The 2017 contribution limit is $18,000 for 401(k)s and your traditional and Roth IRAs cannot be more than $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older).
4. Use up FSA money. If you still have money set aside in a flexible spending account for health care expenses, see if you can order new glasses or schedule that dental work you’ve been putting off. Beginning in 2019, the dollar limit on voluntary employee salary reductions for contributions to health FSAs will be $2,650
5. Maximize your gift allowance. Got money to spend? Consider maxing our your gift allowance, which is $14,000 per person per year (meaning a couple can gift up to $28,000 per year to as many people as they want). There is no carry-over of gift allowances from year to year so gifts need to be made on or before Dec. 31.
6. Adjust your tax withholding. Have you’ve gotten married, divorced or had kids in 2018? If so, then you probably need to update your withholding with your employer’s human resources department. A lot of times this results in only needing to adjust your W4.
1. Take first Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). These are amounts the US federal government requires one to withdraw annually from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans. If you turned 70½ this year and decide to delay your first RMD, you have until April 1, 2018, to take it without penalty. Note that deferring your first RMD to the following year will mean taking two distributions in the second year, which could bump you into a higher tax bracket.
2. File taxes. Tax Day falls on April 15 in 2019. Even if you’re applying for an extension, you still must pay any taxes due by this date.
3. Fund your Individual Retirement Account (IRA). You also have until April 15, 2019, to max out your IRA for the 2018 tax year ($5,500, or $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older).
1. Revisit your tax withholding. Changes in dependents, income and marital status can all affect your tax bill. Use the IRS’s withholding calculator to ensure you’re withholding enough—but not too much.
2. Confirm beneficiary designations. Make sure your current designations are still in line with your estate plan.
3. Request credit reports. With data breaches and identity theft on the rise, (thanks Equifax and Target), it’s increasingly important to stay on top of fraudulent activity. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, each of the national credit-reporting agencies is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, upon request, once every 12 months.