Your Year-End Checklist

I love a good checklist. I started the year with one to keep you on track, so it seems fitting to the end the year with one as well. Before you check out for the holidays, take some time to check off the following 11 tasks.

1) Review your goals:  The end of the year is a great time to review your goals and set new ones for 2019. How did you do this year?  Anything you’re proud of accomplishing? I like to start by recognizing bright spots. You can build on those successes as you set new goals. Conversely, is there anything you wish you could have done better? You can learn as much from stumbling blocks as successes. And finally, take a look at how your net worth has changed this year.  It’s a good indicator of how much progress you’ve made in your financial health this year.

2) Update your budget: Did you save as much money as you wanted? Were you able to pay off debt as you planned? Take time as the year ends to think about whether you met your 2018 goals. If you didn’t have a budget or financial goals, now is a great time to start.

3) Create a holiday bucket: You know you’re going to spend some money on the holidays.  Why not make your spending intentional? Create a separate bucket for holiday spending, and when that money is gone, stop spending. You’ll thank yourself in January when you don’t have an unusually large credit card bill.

4) Use the benefits that you will lose: Some of your workplace benefits disappear if you don’t use them.  Make sure you’ve taken advantage of expiring perks like vacation days or a medical or dependent care flexible spending account (FSA). Don’t lose them just because you forgot about them.

5) Make any last charitable contributions: You can’t deduct charitable contributions made after December 31 on your 2018 tax return, so take time to get generous. If giving to charity is a part of your spending plan, you can use these questions to help make the most of your charitable giving.

6) Pump up your 529: If you’re saving for education through a 529 plan, you’ll have to contribute by December 31st to get a state tax deduction this year. You can find your state’s specific deduction here. If your state is one of the four that allow an unlimited deduction, keep in mind the yearly gift-tax and super-funding rules.

7) Max out your 401k: While you have until April to make contributions to your traditional IRA, Roth IRA and HSA, you can only contribute to your 401k through December 31st. So, if you have extra cash and are looking to boost your savings, consider contributing your last couple of checks entirely to your 401k.

8) Find your tax return: Tax season is just around the corner. Take advantage of holiday down time to get organized. You might even be ready to file your return early. You can also use this time to assess whether a  Roth conversion works for you.

9) Review your business structure: The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made a lot of big changes for small businesses. You may want to re-evaluate your business structure in light of the new QBI deduction, which is only available to sole proprietorships, S corporations, LLCs and partnerships. Also, if you’re considering a solo 401k, you’ll need to set it up by December 31st  (although you can make employer/profit sharing contributions up to the business tax filing deadline).

 10) Will and Trust review: If you life changed significantly last year, your will and trust may also need modifications.  Did you get married or divorced?  Have a baby?  Inherit property?  These events can affect your estate plan. It’s a good time to review estate planning documents to make sure they fit your current situation.

11) Insurance Documents: Like your will and trust, your insurance documents should cover your current situation. Therefore, review your life and disability insurance policies to make sure they protect your current income and the people who depend on you. Your renters or homeowners insurance may also need to be updated to cover any additional big purchases you made during the year. And lastly, you should review your health insurance policy for any upcoming changes for 2019.

My last bonus task is to enjoy this holiday season. I love the holidays because you can reflect and appreciate you have. I hope in 2018 that you used your time, talent and treasure in a way that brought you fulfillment. I’m grateful for your readership and support and look forward to helping you thrive even more in 2019.