End-of-year financial planning tips
A s the end of the year approaches, most people’s focus tends to shift toward the excitement of the holidays and away from the responsibilities of financial planning. Yet the end of the calendar year provides important opportunities to make adjustments for tax and retirement planning. The following tips can help you take advantage of those opportunities and plan responsibly for the year, and years, ahead.
• Plan your charitable donations—Whether it’s the box of stuff in your garage or the old car in your driveway, making charitable donations before the end of the year can help reduce your tax liability. Make sure to document the items being donated and ask the charity of your choice for a receipt.
• Talk to your financial advisor—If you own stocks or other investment instruments outside of your 401(k), now is the time to talk to your financial advisor to review your investment portfolio. By taking losses on certain investments now, you could affect your overall tax bill. Don’t have a financial advisor? Your local community bank can likely help point you in the right direction.
• Dust off your family budget—Add a re-commitment to budgeting to your family checklist for the end of the year. Whether it’s reining in your family expenses or setting up an automatic deduction from your paycheck to pad your savings account, making a plan and sticking to it is the surest path to financial success.
• Make an early mortgage payment—If you can make your January mortgage payment before Dec. 31, it will allow you to deduct the interest paid on your tax-year 2013 taxes, lowering your total taxable income.
• Max out your IRA contributions— For 2013, the maximum you can contribute to your traditional and Roth IRAs is the smaller of $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older) or your taxable income for the year. While you technically have until April 15, 2014 to max out your contributions for the 2013 tax year, now is a good time to make sure you have a plan to do so.
• Take full advantage of higher education tax credits—If you are currently enrolled in college or are paying for a dependent’s education, you may be eligible for the American opportunity or lifetime learning tax credit.
The American opportunity credit provides up to $2,500, but is limited to use in a total of four tax years. The lifetime learning tax credit provides up to $2,000 in tax credits for qualified education expenses, including tuition, books, supplies and equipment.
Both credits provide incentives to bundle your education expenses before the end of the year to take full advantage of tax savings.
By knowing—and taking advantage of—a few tips that will provide various tax saving and retirement planning opportunities, you can rest assured your finances are in the best possible condition moving into 2014.