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Year-End Financial Checklist: 8 Must Haves

New Year’s is just a few days away and it’s always a good idea to assess your financial situation before the year is up. With a new presidency on the horizon as well, it’s also a good time to start thinking about how new reforms could affect your taxable income and finances over the coming months and years. By using a year-end financial checklist, you can ensure your 2017 will start off on the right foot.
Here’s a simple year-end financial checklist you can tackle before December 31st to help get your financial life in order.

Review Your  Insurance Policies, and Don’t Miss Open Enrollment

Your HR department has probably been sending around reminders about open enrollment. Don’t delay! Set aside some time to tally up how much you’ve spent on premiums, claims and out of pocket expenses over the last few years to help you determine if you should switch plans. Also think about if you’ve had any recent lifestyle changes or have some on the way such as getting married, having a baby or caring for an elderly parent. You may want to increase or decrease your health, dental, vision, auto and home, disability and life insurance coverage to better fit your changing lifestyle.

Check on Your FSA Balance

If you have an active healthcare flexible spending account (FSA), check your current account balance. If your employer does not offer a grace period or carry over for unused balances at year-end, you’ll want to try and use up your remaining funds soon so you don’t have to forfeit any leftover funds. Check with your employer if you aren’t clear on the roll forward options for your specific FSA benefits.

Update Your Tax Status and Contact Information

HR often gets inundated with preparing year-end tax filings and updating employee data. If any of your information has changed, don’t procrastinate letting them know or you’ll run the risk of having to track down missing or amended tax forms in Q1. Make sure your HR department and payroll manager have your current home address, as well as your current marital status, number of dependents and your latest withholding information.

Don’t Lose Any Hard-Earned PTO

Does your employer enforce accrual limits on unused vacation days? If so, better check and see what your balance is. If it’s high, consider taking some well-deserved paid time off this month to recharge and prepare for the busy holiday season.

Hand in Your Q4 Expense Reports on Time

Many employers are eager to close their books for the year as quickly as possible, and that can mean tight deadlines to submit your last expense reports for the year. Gather up all your loose receipts and hand in your Q4 expense reports before the deadline so you don’t risk getting stuck with the bill. Check your wallet, desk drawers, glove compartment and briefcase/purse to make sure you don’t miss any receipts.

Maximize Your Retirement Contributions

When was the last time you checked on your retirement accounts? Don’t be like most Americans and not have enough money saved for retirement. The current maximum 401(k) contribution set by the IRS is $18,000 for 2016. If you want to make additional contributions for 2016, ask your HR manager what the cutoff date is as soon as possible and be sure to get your funds in before your final 2016 payroll is processed. If you want to contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA account, the maximum contributions for 2016 cannot exceed $5,500 for those aged 49 and under or $6,500 for people 50 and over.[1]

Review Your Income Tax Deductions

If you’re looking to lower your tax bill for 2016, it’s a good idea to tally up the tax deductions you’ve earned so far this year. There’s still time before the year is up to make qualified charitable donations and utilize tax loss harvesting on any unprofitable investments for this tax year. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve made all your property tax payments on time to avoid any late fees and penalties. Even if you’ve already paid your 2016 installments, you may want to consider prepaying your 2017 installments this year if you’re eligible to take the additional deductions.

Check on Your Asset Allocations and Rebalance

Don’t forget to take some time to review your precious investment portfolio. Check and see if your asset weightings have shifted out of alignment with your target investment strategy. It’s good practice to regularly rebalance your portfolio. Make sure your investment goals are on track and well positioned for the upcoming months and years ahead.
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[1] IRS, “IRS accounts 2016 pension plan limitations; 401(k) contribution limit remains unchanged at $18,000 for 2016,” IRS, October 21, 2015.

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