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Financial Planning Checklist: Things To Do Before Year’s End
The holiday season is in full swing, but don’t put your finances on auto-pilot during this crucial time of the year. Multiple planning opportunities may exist before year-end that can help build your wealth. Don’t get caught looking back once the calendar turns to 2019, as it may be too late. Read on to make sure that you do all that you can before year’s end.
Maximize Retirement Account Contributions
If you have not done so already, make sure you allocate maximum contributions into your various retirement accounts, such as your 401(k), Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 403(b), SEP IRA, etc. In the case of employer-sponsored retirement accounts (if you have one), it is even more crucial to maximize your contributions if the company offers a match. If you neglect to do this, you are leaving money on the table.
A Health Savings Account (HSA), often considered a “Medical IRA,” is another investment vehicle that can help reduce tax liability. A HSA provides tax savings in three ways: contributions are deductible, interest and earnings are tax-deferred, and distributions are tax-free when used for medical expenses.
Reduce Taxable Income
A smart way to reduce your taxable income is to sell any investments that have declined in value since they were purchased. The losses can offset any realized gains in other investments during the year, and ultimately put you in a better position come tax filing time. A common strategy is to reinvest proceeds from sale of losses in a similar type of investment so that you don’t lose out on potential gains in any market rebound. If you aim to do this, however, make sure to be a aware of the wash sale.
Consider Roth Conversions
The Roth IRA is perhaps the most attractive retirement savings vehicle for investors. Roth IRA assets grow tax-free, a very favorable tax characteristic that can provide desirable flexibility in retirement years. Building wealth in Roth IRAs isn’t always so easy, however, as Roth IRA contributions are not allowed once a married couple has an AGI over $203K (or $137K for an individual). Roth conversions – changing an account from an IRA into a Roth IRA – are a possible way around this.
Roth Conversions for Recent Retirees
Retirees who have yet to reach age 70½ (when required minimum distributions (RMDs) begin) typically have much lower taxable income once they are no longer earning a salary. Because Roth Conversions are taxed as income, it is better to convert in years when your income and tax rates are low. Therefore, it often makes sense to move assets from traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs during this “sweet spot” period of years after retirement but before RMDs begin (and taxable income increases).
“Super-Charged” Roth Conversions for High Earners
High-income earners can sidestep the Roth income limitations by contributing to an IRA and then converting it to a Roth. IRA limits are currently $6,000 ($7,000 for those aged 50 and over), and the strategy can be repeated every year.
This a good start, but high-income earners may want to do more. If your 401(k) allows for both after-tax contributions and in-service distributions, you can quickly accumulate significant Roth IRA assets by using a “Roth Super-charged” strategy. Not everyone will have this opportunity as it depends largely on your 401(k) plan’s flexibility and design. But for those eligible it can be an outstanding way to accumulate assets into a Roth IRA.
Take Advantage of 529 Plan State Tax Deductions
It’s never too late or too early to start saving for your child’s college fund. By starting early, you can reap the rewards of compound interest. Even if you are starting late, think in relative terms: today’s late start is still an early opportunity in the eyes of your future-self, looking back.
Many states, including Illinois, also allow a deduction on your state income tax return for contributions you make into a state-sponsored 529 plan. In Illinois, the annual limit is $20,000 per family, and you can find other state-specific rules here. The deadline for these contributions to count is year-end.
Re-Consider Your Charitable Giving Strategy
The new tax has resulted in significant changes on the tax deductibility of charitable giving. According to the Tax Policy Center, 15 million households – fewer than one in ten – will benefit from a charitable deduction in 2018, down from 36 million in 2017. This is a result of the steep increase in the standard deduction to $24,400 for married couples and the new cap on state and local tax deductions at $12,000. So if you typically give in the $1,000 – $10,000 range, your charitable contributions will likely no longer provide you with an added tax deduction.
If you fall into this category, one way to become re-eligible for the deductions is by stacking several years charitable giving into a single year. And remember, cash donations are rarely the most effective form of charitable giving. Consider donating appreciated stock instead.
Review Progress And Set New Goals
This is an important one and is often overlooked due to the hectic nature of the end of the year. Take the time to do a review of everything that you’ve accomplished over the last year as it relates to your finances. How much did you save? What goals did you achieve? These are all great questions to reflect on to see how you did, where you might improve and what new goals to set for the following year.
For a wider view on uncovering your potential financial blind spots, here is a resource that we hope you find valuable:
Take Action Today
It is still not too late to get your financial house in order and take action today. We hope that the checklist above is helpful, and we open our availability to help with any of your year-end financial planning needs. You can reach us by calling (844) 377-4963 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also book an appointment online here.
 Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/charities-brace-for-tax-driven-dip-in-year-end-giving-1543333451