Nothing stays the same. Every year, there are typically changes in the economy, markets, and IRS rules. On top of these external changes that happen around us, many of us face changes within our families or businesses in our needs, resources, and goals. A financial plan is a way to assess how your current situation has changed each year and map out the next steps to stay on track for your goals. Good financial planning, like good trip planning, should always be flexible because you may find that you need to adjust for detours or destination changes.
Here are some areas that could be critical to evaluate each year in order to keep your financial plan lined up with your target destination:
● Are you maximizing your retirement savings?
Check to see what the max amount is you can contribute. The IRS periodically adjusts the maximum you can contribute and there are also ‘catch-up’ extra contributions that people over the age of 50 can make. You can take advantage of tax-deductible retirement plan contributions by maximizing the amount you contribute to 401k and IRA accounts. If your employer offers matching contributions, you will want to take advantage of this ‘free’ money as well. For a 401(k) plan, you will need to make your contribution by December 31. IRA plans will allow you to make contributions up until tax day of the following year.
● Are you planning out your charitable giving?
You can take advantage of tax-deductible charitable gifts each year. You may have options such as making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from your IRA to reduce the tax you owe. Or, you can sometimes prepay charitable gifts for the upcoming year to allow a larger tax deduction this year.
● Have you taken your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)?
You generally have to start taking withdrawals from your IRA, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA, or retirement plan account when you reach age 72.* You will face steep penalty fees if you do not take your RMD. Make sure you are clear on what your RMD is for your plan types. If you have more than one IRA, you must calculate the RMD for each IRA separately each year. However, you may aggregate your RMD amounts for all your IRAs and withdraw the total from one IRA or a portion from each of your IRAs. This is only for the same plan types. You cannot exercise the same consolidation technique when it comes to 401(k) plans.
● Have you checked your flexible spending account (FSA) balance?
If you are using one of these accounts you will want to check how much you have in your account and make sure you use it by the end of the year so you don’t lose it. Some plans will give you a grace period through the first quarter of the year.
● Have you reviewed your budget?
Or, make one if you don’t already have one. Lots of change can happen in just one year and you may be surprised to find how different your spending is since the last time you created a budget. There is great value in having a black-and-white, clear picture of your finances to help you plan better for your future.
* The change in the RMD age requirement from 70½ to 72 only applies to individuals who turn 70½ on or after January 1, 2020.
Having a financial plan to follow allows you to navigate life's complex changes on your way toward reaching your goals. Without understanding where you are now, where you want to go in the future, and how to get there it can be very difficult to achieve any of your financial goals and dreams.
No one strategy fits everyone, which is why every client gets our undivided attention—from planning to execution to follow-up. We take a proactive approach to help you develop a strategy to address your financial goals and objectives, using the most efficient methods available.