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Year-End Financial Planning Checklist: 10 tips to get your money in order

As we near the end of 2020, it is a great time to review important deadlines that affect your income taxes and financial plan. We’ve created 10 action items you can employ now to get your finances in order.

 

1. FUND RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS

Here is a list of personal and employee contribution limits and deadlines:

  • Traditional and Roth IRAs: $6,000 ($7,000 if over 50) by April 15, 2021.
  • SEP IRA: Up to $57,000 by tax filing deadline.
  • SIMPLE IRA: $13,500 ($16,500 if over 50) by Dec. 31.
  • 401(k): $19,500 ($26,000 if over 50) by Dec. 31.
  • Health Savings Account: $3,550 (single), $7,100 (family), $1,000 additional contribution if over 55 by April 15, 2021.

2. Fund 529 College Savings Accounts

529 accounts offer tax-free savings for college education expenses. In many states (including South Carolina), you receive an income tax deduction for contributions.  Contributions must be made by Dec. 31.

3. Consider Charitable Giving

Charitable gifts are tax deductible (assuming you itemize deductions). A great way to further the income-tax benefit of charitable giving is to give appreciated stock rather than cash, to avoid capital gains taxes.

If you can’t itemize, the CARES Act allows for an additional “above-the-line” deduction for charitable gifts made in cash of up to $300 in 2020 only.  Also, if you are age 72 or older and have a retirement account, you may still make a charitable gift of up to $100,000 from the retirement account to give pretax dollars. Charitable gifts must be made byDec. 31.

4. Review Cash Reserves

If cash has built up beyond your emergency savings goal, consider investing the cash to increase your passive income. If your emergency savings is getting low, create a plan to replenish the account.

5. Required Minimum Distributions Not Required

Due to the CARES Act, there are no required minimum distributions from retirement accounts in 2020. If you have not made a distribution and don’t need the cash flow, avoid the distribution to reduce taxable income.

6. Revisit Tax Planning

If your income was unusually high in 2020, consider any ways to accelerate tax deductions to offset income and reduce taxes (For example, make future charitable gifts now). If your income was unusually low, consider ways to accelerate future income to utilize losses (For example, Roth IRA conversion).

7. Review Budget

Take time to review your spending and see how your expenses align with your goals for the year. Update your budget and remember to focus on spending that maximizes enjoyment and fulfillment.

8. Review Credit Report

Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com to review your credit report annually  with the three main agencies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Examine each credit line on the report in detail and be on the lookout for any accounts or loans you do not recognize or open accounts that you no longer use.

9. Review Life Changes

Consider how your life has changed over the past year(s) and how those changes affect your life goals and needs. Does your investment plan, insurance protection, or estate plan documents (including IRA and insurance beneficiary designations) need to be updated to reflect the changes in your life goals?

10. Reflect and Envision

Focus on what matters most in your life and gauge if you are living your best life (purpose, relationships, health, enjoyment, finances).  Envision what life would look like if you were living fully in all areas of life.  Create a financial action plan that supports living the life you want to lead.


Andrew Jones  is a Beaufort, S.C., native, a graduate of Clemson University and a Certified Financial Planner TM who has more than 10 years of experience in financial planning and investment management. He is the Senior Client Portfolio Manager at Verity Investment Partners, a Financial Times “Top 300” Registered Investment Advisory Firm.