Year-end financial checklist

The end of the year is a good opportunity to make sure you're still on track toward your financial goals. 

Tags: Best practices, Goals, Planning, How to, Be prepared
Published: August 25, 2021

It’s a good time to review your accounts and investments and get ready for the new year. Also, with tax season around the corner, reviewing your portfolio and personal finances now could potentially help you reduce your tax liability.

Use this year-end financial checklist as a guide, or download a PDF version.

 

Review your financial plan

  • Review this year’s spending patterns. Were you able to achieve your goals?
  • Are there goals you put on hold in favor of other priorities?
  • Have you experienced life transitions in the last year that may impact your overall plan (births, deaths, marriage, divorce, retirement, etc.)
  • Do you expect to make any large purchases next year?

Tips:

  • Conduct an honest review. If money was tight, or if you had a surplus, this is a good time to adjust.
  • It’s also a good time to review your short- and long-term goals. Talk with your financial professional to make sure your plan is on track for the new year.  

 

Employee benefits

  • Are you able to max out your employer-sponsored 401(k) or IRA account contributions for the year?
  • If your employer matches contributions, will you contribute up to, at minimum, the company match?
  • Review your allocation. Are you happy with the ratio of stocks, bonds, and other assets, or do you need to rebalance?
  • Have you reviewed your corporate stock options and other incentive plans (restricted stock, restricted award units, etc.)?
  • Review your health, life and disability insurance coverage. Do you need to make changes during open enrollment?
  • Are your beneficiaries up to date?  Are you able to also designate a successor beneficiary?
  • If enrolled in an HSA, have you maxed out your contributions for the year?
  • If enrolled in an FSA, do you need to use up any remaining funds, or can you roll them over? Do you need to adjust your withholdings, based on this year’s spending?

Tips:

  • For the current tax year, the maximum 401(k) contribution is $19,500, plus an additional $6,500 if you’re 50+. The maximum IRA contribution is $6,000, plus $1,000 if you’re 50+. If you’re not maxing out your contribution, consider at least increasing it on an annual basis.
  • Pay attention to changing investment options and any associated fees.
  • Review your stock compensation plan and execution strategy with a financial professional.
  • Calculate your remaining health insurance deductible and determine if you can accelerate or postpone medical treatments.
  • For the current tax year, the maximum HSA contributions are $3,600 for individuals, $7,200 for families and an additional $1,000 for individuals age 55+.
  • Use up your FSA: There are some qualified products you may not have thought of, from contact lens solution to bandages, which you can purchase with those funds.

 

Taxes

  • Did you have any major investment losses this year?
  • Have you experienced any life transitions in the last year that could affect your tax withholding status? (marriage, births, divorce, deaths, retirement, etc.)
  • Based on your anticipated income for next year, would deferring or accelerating:  any bonuses; property sales; other taxable transactions; deductible expenses; charitable gifts, etc., benefit you from a tax perspective?

Tips:

  • If you had investments that lost money, tax-loss harvesting can help you reduce your tax liability. However, there are strict rules around how this is executed. To avoid potential penalties, consider talking to a financial or tax professional before using this strategy.
  • If you expect to have a smaller (or larger) income next year, it may benefit you to defer certain income or losses. Talk to your financial professional to review your options.
  • Tax law proposals are currently in discussion that could have a significant impact on your tax liability. Get more details about potential tax law changes and consider what steps you may want to take to prepare.

 

Investments

  • Has your asset allocation shifted during the year?
  • Does your risk tolerance meet your timeline and goals?
  • Did you see large capital gains for the tax year?
  • Have you contributed to a 529 plan?
  • Do you have appropriate tax diversification within your portfolio?

Tips:

  • Outperforming and underperforming assets might leave your portfolio unbalanced, so be sure to review your allocation and rebalance as needed.
  • Make a note of any capital gains or investment losses.
  • Contribute to your IRA through the tax filing deadline next year and it will still count toward the previous tax year.
  • Consider using a so-called ‘back-door’ Roth conversion strategy to establish or to continue funding your Roth IRA account.  However, this strategy may not be as advantageous if you already have a traditional IRA with a significant account balance.  It may also trigger additional taxes. Consult with your financial professional to understand the benefits, limitations and pit-falls, if any, for your situation.  
  • Work with your financial professional to see how you can incorporate tax diversification in your portfolio.
  • As the end of the year approaches, keep a close watch on the proposed tax policy changes and work with your tax advisor to determine if you should accelerate capital gains or harvest tax losses into 2020, if any. 

 

Charitable contributions

  • Did you donate to the causes and charities you care about this year?
  • Did you maximize your charitable donations or donate assets other than cash?
  • Could you potentially benefit from tax savings if you donate more?

Tips:

  • If you plan to donate the same amount of money each year, consider “bunching” the donations into a single year. This bulk donation could increase your potential itemized deduction for that year. Consider utilizing a donor-advised fund to spread-out the giving while taking advantage of “bunching”.
  • If you noticed large long-term capital gains, consider donating the appreciated assets. You won’t have to pay the capital gains tax, and, if you itemize, you can deduct the full amount of the appreciated assets; up to 30% of AGI with carry forwards for unused deductions
  • If you’re 70 1/2, you may want to consider a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) directly to a charity. The maximum contribution is $100,000 and, although a charitable deduction is not allowed for a QCD, you won’t have to include that donated amount in your taxable income.
  • Get more details on advanced charitable giving strategies such as QCDs and donating appreciated assets and consult with a tax advisor to fully understand the rules regarding your giving options.

 

Credit/Debt

  • Have you reviewed your loan positions and terms to make sure you are getting the most favorable rates/terms?
  • Have you made progress paying down your debt?
  • Are there ways to minimize your total interest payments by prioritizing high-interest debt or consolidating?
  • Are the products you’re using — from your credit cards to your loans — serving your needs?

Tips:

  • Evaluate how you balance debt with your other goals, including saving and investing, and make sure you’re prioritizing each accordingly.
  • Review the terms on any outstanding balance to make sure you have the best possible rate.
  • Refinance loans and mortgages, if appropriate.
  • Research credit cards with rewards points and programs for either cash back or travel rewards.

 

Estate planning

  • Have you reviewed your will and/or trust in the last five years, or more currently if there has been a recent life event (marriage, divorce, death, incapacity, change in family dynamics, etc.)?
  • Have you experienced any life transitions in the last year that could affect your will or trust? (births, marriage, deaths, divorce, retirement date, etc.).
  • Are your beneficiaries and trustee designations up to date?
  • Do you know how you could be impacted by potential tax law changes? 

Tips:

  • Consider naming a corporate trustee or co-trustee, who can objectively administer your trust and have experience dealing with family dynamics that can arise during the process.
  • Monetary gifts up to $15,000 to any recipient are federal tax-free.
  • Consider taking advantage of the current lifetime gifting exemptions, which is $11.7 million per individual. These exemptions are scheduled to sunset to $5 million (indexed for inflation) per individual in 2025 but may be reduced sooner if proposed tax policy changes occur.

 

Insurance

  • Review existing policies and coverage; is current coverage sufficient?
  • Does the original purpose for your insurance policies still exist? If not, do you need to review your insurance coverage options?
  • Are your beneficiaries up to date, especially if you had a life event recently (births, marriage, deaths, divorce, retirement etc.)?

Tips:

 

 

Explore our goals-based approach to financial planning.