Most Americans have one thing on their minds this time of year: how to make next year even better! Although we may take a moment to look back on the past 12 months and celebrate our big “wins”, it’s still healthy to look ahead toward growth and improvement. One thing you might be thinking about “leveling up” next year is your finances. But I have a secret for you:
You don’t have to wait until January to get started.
You can start making some amazing year-end money moves right now that will set you up for success in the new year!
Do An Annual Financial Review
To know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been. Look at the goals you’ve set, and whether or not you’ve achieved them. If you did – congrats! Do you need to set more advanced goals for next year? If you didn’t – what got in your way? Did unexpected expenses crop up? Did you experience a major life change? Or were your goals unreasonable? You should also evaluate your budget, where you stand with your current debts, and your net worth statement. Do all of these feel like they’re still in line with your goals for next year?
Update Your Budget
No matter how much things seem to stay the same, something changes every year. People change jobs, get engaged, welcome a new family member, or buy a new house. Any number of things can happen throughout the year, which means evaluating and updating your budget should be an annual exercise. Accomplishing your goals starts with setting a realistic budget. Evaluate some of the big things you spent money on and ask yourself, is there a way you could cut back on certain expenses? Can you cut costs entirely to make room for other priorities? Now may be a good time to renegotiate rates, especially car insurance and cell phone bills.
Where Is Life Taking You?
Do you have any big expenses coming up in the next 12 months? This might mean you’re:
- Purchasing a home
- Starting your family
- Getting married
- Changing jobs
- Starting your own business
- Moving out of state
- Buying a rental property
- Refinishing part of your home
- Planning a big, exciting trip
Whatever your big plans are for next year, make sure you’ve thought through the financial side of them, too!
Spend Down Your FSA
Whether you have a health-focused FSA or a Dependent Care FSA, now is the time to use it or lose it! Some employer-offered flexible savings accounts require you to spend all the money you’ve accumulated over the year before December 31. Don’t let this money slip through your fingers simply because you didn’t visit the doctor enough. Not sure what you can spend your flexible savings account on? Check out this list of approved expenses.
Check Your Investments
As we close out the year, it’s time to check out your portfolio and evaluate its performance. This year had some ups and downs, so you could have either gained or lost money this year. Depending on your situation, discuss with your tax professional or Certified Financial Planner and see if it would benefit you to do tax-loss harvesting. If you do decide to sell some of your investments, the end of the year is also a good time to ensure your portfolio is balanced with a diversified mix of investments. Again, how you balance your portfolio will depend on your situation, and your tax professional or CFP can give you more guidance.
Fund Your Retirement Accounts or HSA
You only have until December 31st to max out your workplace retirement accounts (like a 401(k)) or your Health Savings Account. If there’s a little extra wiggle-room in your annual budget, now is the time to make it happen!
While most Americans won’t be itemizing their taxes under the new tax law, many of them still will be considering whether or not to give to charity this time of year. Although your donations aren’t deductible if you don’t itemize next filing season, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give back! Many of us have more than enough and, at the end of the day, giving to a charity or organization you’re passionate about is a fantastic way to spend your excess wealth. An added benefit is that charitable giving is emotionally fulfilling – meaning you may be less likely to overspend in other areas of your life as a result of being philanthropic!
Automate What You Can
Are your bills paid automatically each month? Do you have automated contributions to your retirement or savings accounts set up? How about automated extra payments toward your debt? When we have to manually decide to make financially wise decisions, we’re way less likely to follow through. Give yourself a leg-up for next year and automate everything you can before December 31st.
Talk to a Financial Planner
The best way to get organized for next year is to get in touch with a financial planner. A financial planner can help you to:
- Map out your short and long-term financial goals
- Set up automated bill payments, savings, and extra debt repayment
- Organize your budget
- Figure out what financial roadblocks you’ve faced in the past, and how to navigate around them in the future when they crop up
- Invest your funds in a way that aligns with your financial goals and personal values
Sounds pretty great, right?
If you’re ready to take the next step in your financial life next year, I encourage you to reach out!