Year-End Money Checklist: 2019 – Your Richest Life

The end of 2019 is here already, and with just a month to go, there are some simple things you can mark off your money checklist to set yourself up well for 2020. 

Prepare for the year ahead with these tasks, and you’ll feel a lot more confident when you ring in the new year.

1.  Money Checklist for the End of the Year – Max Out Retirement Accounts

Maxing out your retirement accounts is a good idea because, obviously, it creates and compounds a better savings cushion for retirement. 

But you can benefit in the short term from tax-deductible accounts, like your 401(k), which will help you decrease your tax bill. This is a great way to use your year-end bonus, too.

Retirement resources:

Should You Retire Early?
Are Your 401(k) Savings Enough?
5 Ways to Prepare for Early Retirement

2.  Lower Your Tax Bill

You can cut down on your tax bill in the spring just by completing some tasks by December 31st.

Here are some items to add to your to-do list:

  • Contribute to your Health Savings Account (HSA), 401(k) and other pre-tax accounts
  • Pay estimated taxes on any big bonuses or buyouts to cut down on taxable income
  • Donate to charity
  • Sell your investments that are at a loss 

Crunch some numbers now to estimate what you might owe at tax time. Give yourself time to save money or make a plan for your refund so you’re prepared before you file.

Tax resources:

Physician Tax Tips: 4 Strategies to Know
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: What You Should Know
Tax Tips for Easier Filing

3. Check Over Your Portfolio

Before you prepare for the year ahead, know where you stand with your portfolio. Checking in once per year keeps you in the loop without obsessing. If you’ve been hovering over your portfolio, you’re more prone to making emotional decisions that won’t serve you well long-term.

But if you don’t look at your portfolio annually, you might miss slight shifts that have happened, or other changes that don’t align with your goals.

Check-in at the end of the year so you can have a game plan going into 2020. 

Portfolio resources:

Refreshing Your Portfolio for the Best Growth
How to Handle Market Volatility

4.  Do Tax Loss Harvesting

After you know where you stand with your portfolio, consider selling your losses. Shed the investments that are worth less than they were when you bought them.

This is also known as tax-loss harvesting. It could offset your gains and be worth a write-off of about $3,ooo annually against your income. 

(Note: Due to the wash-sale rule, you won’t be able to buy back your investments immediately.)

5.  Update Beneficiaries and Withholdings 

A lot can change in a year. Make sure your withholdings, beneficiaries and benefits reflect that.

Even if nothing major happened in your year, like the birth of a child, a marriage or a divorce, a check-in is still worthwhile. Make sure you’re up-to-date on who is listed on your insurance policies and retirement accounts, and make any needed changes to your withholdings before the new year.  

6.  Donate to Charity

Maybe you have a favorite charity you give to frequently, or you donated to disaster relief charities this year. Whatever you gave or plan to give this holiday season, make sure you keep receipts handy. Anything you give could be tax-deductible if you itemize your deductions. 

Giving resources:

Charitable Giving: How to Work it into Your Life, Budget and Estate Plan
Natural Disasters: Prepare Your Family and Help Others

7.  Learn from Your Year

Resolutions are a hot topic this time of year, but there are some ways to help them stick past January.

First, take some time to look at how your 2019 went. What were your resolutions for this year? Did you stick to them? What came up that derailed your goals? What went well? Taking even a few minutes to reflect can help you avoid making the same mistakes in the new year.

Before you set your 2020 resolutions, ask yourself where you’d like to be one year from now, and don’t bog yourself down with too many goals.

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