Set yourself up for success with these smart year-end financial strategies.
Another year is coming to a close but there’s still time to make some great changes to help your finances. Early December is a great time to maximize your benefits and get ready for a prosperous new year.
Here are some smart moves to make this month before it’s too late.
Spend down your flex spending account
Many employers offer “flexible spending accounts” that you can use to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses like co-pays and over-the-counter medications.
Check your deadline for your work account; many of them end on December 31st. Money contributed to these accounts is “use it or lose it”, that is, they must be used by the renewal date. If your deadline is December 31st, now’s the time to pay attention so you don’t forfeit your hard-earned money.
First off, go through all of your receipts and make sure that you have requested reimbursement for any expenses you have incurred so far this year. Pro-tip: if you’re missing something, you can likely download a duplicate receipt from your medical provider’s portal.
If you have already submitted your receipts for all of your 2021 expenses and still have a balance in your account, here are some options to spend out the rest of your money:
- Make a doctor’s appointment; now’s a great time to get a physical or address any nagging aches and pains
- Refill any regular prescriptions before the end of the year; get a 90-day supply if your doctor allows this
- Stock up on eligible over-the-counter products like pain relievers and bandages
- Get a new pair of glasses or refill your contact lens prescription
- Schedule any preventative tests you have been putting off, but call now, it’s hard to schedule these with all the labor shortage
Make additional contributions to your Individual Retirement Account
If you’re not maximizing your IRA and retirement donations, you’re going to have a hard time retiring someday. Social security alone will not be enough.
Good news, though, you still have time to make a deposit into your 401k, IRA, or other retirement accounts. If you don’t have an account, set up one this month. It’s super easy, your bank or financial planner can help you.
It’s also a good time to look at your regular contributions. If your employer offers a “match” to your retirement and you’re not participating, correct that right now. That’s free money you’re leaving on the table that you can use in your retirement.
Talk to your financial advisor about the best way to ensure that you are maximizing your current and future benefits while minimizing the tax implications.
Contribute to charity
It’s been another hard year for charities and the people they serve. As the economic impacts of the pandemic have continued, ore and more people are turning to charities for the first time looking for help to survive.
If you are fortunate enough to have a stable income, consider making a contribution to one or more charities. Even a donation as small as $25 will go a long way.
Stay local. Support charities in your local community before the large national groups and not only will you ensure that more of your donation goes to help people in your community instead of paying high-priced executives in another state.
You can use Charity Navigator or your state’s nonprofit registration page to verify that the organization you are choosing is in good standing.
Not only will your contribution help people in your community, you may be able to write off some of your donations on your 2021 taxes. Be sure to keep receipts or pay with a credit card so you have documentation and remember, a tax-deductible donation helps both you and your chosen charity.
Use your vacation or personal days
Between the pandemic and the economy most of us haven’t been traveling as much as we used to.
If you’ve got vacation and personal days stockpiled, check your employer’s policies. Many employers have a “use it or lose it” deadline for vacation time.
Don’t let those go to waste. You deserve some time off.
More than half of all workers report that they do not use all their allocated paid time off. The U.S. Travel Association estimates that Americans forfeited as many as 236 vacation days each year, which equates to about $65.5 billion in lost benefits.
Even if you have nowhere to go you can plan a fun “staycation”. Use the time to explore your own town, catch up on house projects, or finally read all those books on your e-reader.
Think about your mortality.
Not to be moribid, you’re not going to live forever. If you pass away in the next year, what kind of mess will you leave behind for your loved ones?
Getting your affairs in order not only ensures that your wishes and intentions are clear, but it will also save your heirs from wasting time and money. It’s your choice: do you want your hard-earned money to go to lawyers or your family?
Make it easier for your loved ones by committing to getting your affairs in order before the end of the year. You’ve got to use up some vacation days anyway, right?
Some ideas to help you get prepared:
- Make sure you have a current will that reflects your wishes
- If you have minor children or pets, make legal arrangements for their care after you’re gone
- Create an advanced directive and a healthcare power of attorney in case you’re incapacitated
- Update the beneficiary information on your life insurance
- Gather all your important legal papers and secure them in a fireproof lockbox or safe deposit box. Don’t forget things like property deeds, life insurance information, birth certificates, marriage and/or divorce decrees
- Write down all your passwords and lock those up too, it’s extremely difficult to access online accounts without a password.
Get your personal finances in order.
The end of the year is the perfect time to plan for the upcoming year. Here are some things you can do now to ensure that you’ll be in a better financial place at the end of 2022 compared to where you are now:
- Set a budget for the coming year — and make a plan to stick to it. There are lots of online tools to help you with this.
- Make a plan to pay off one or more debts next year
- Review your tax withholding with your employer and make any needed adjustments, particularly if you have added or lost a dependent or had major changes that impact deductions, like buying or selling a home
- Automate your bills —set up recurring bills to autopay with your bank. This is great way to reduce time and avoid late fees, plus you’ll save on stamps.
- Review your insurance coverage amounts and deductibles to make sure your coverage levels are where you want them to be.
What financial tasks do you do every yeah? What tips and tricks help you get your your life in order? Share in the comments.