8-Point Checklist for Year-End Financial Planning

By: Frances Cronlund, CIMA®, CExP™, CTFA, CFP®
3 Minute Read

As we head into the final days of 2019, it’s time to start thinking about year-end deadlines while making sure your financial plan is still on track.

This eight-point checklist of common year-end “action items” is a useful guide to help determine both where you are in your financial plan and how you should proceed to make the most of the coming year.

When possible, we recommend reviewing these items with your financial advisor.

  1. Your Goals
    If you’ve met with a financial advisor in the past, you likely outlined long-term goals and built a financial plan to reach them. As you’ve worked toward those goals, have they changed in any way? Have other things changed that might make reaching those goals easier or more challenging? Some examples of life events that may alter your financial situation include a career change, marriage, birth of a child, retirement, inheritance, or purchase of a home.Even if you haven’t experienced a major, life-altering event, the likelihood that something has changed is high for most people. Maybe you’ve had some health worries this year, you’d like to retire a bit sooner, or you’ve discovered a new passion. Now is a great time to reflect on what’s most important to you and shift your financial plan accordingly. 
  2. Your Performance
    It’s important to understand how you performed financially relative to your goals as opposed to relative to indices that may not be appropriate. Sure, it can be helpful to measure results relative to major market indices, but there is no single index by which your performance should be measured.
  3. Charitable Gifts
    Many non-profit organizations and charities ramp up their efforts to obtain end-of-year contributions in the month of December. This makes sense, as many people forget to contribute until the end of the year. In fact, nearly one-third of all giving happens in December, and 12 percent of all giving happens in the last three days of the year.Consider getting a head start on charitable giving before of the last week of the year.  That way, there will be adequate time to complete and document all charitable gifts before the rush.
  4. 529 Plan Contributions
    If you are funding a 529 college savings plan, be sure to contribute the maximum amount that you need for this year by December 31. Most state plans require contributions to be postmarked by the deadline, but you should check with your specific 529 plan for their contribution rules. To avoid this year-end scramble in the future, you can set up automatic contributions from your checking or savings account for next year.
  5. Retirement Plan Contributions
    You may have until April 15 to contribute to IRAs for the current tax year, but most other retirement plan contribution deadlines are December 31. This deadline applies to establishing new plans, such as simplified employee pension plans, and SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRAs.If you receive a bonus, make sure you tell your employer to put a portion of your bonus into your 401(k) or other retirement savings plan at work.
  6. Tax Losses and Gains
    You must take all realized tax losses (or gains) in your portfolio by December 31. We recommend that you also review your year-to-date gains or losses and any tax-loss carry-forwards from previous years with a financial advisor.
  7. Required Minimum Distributions
    First and foremost, it’s critical to note that the penalty for not taking your required minimum distributions (RMD) is 50 percent of the total required distribution. The IRS requires that you take a required minimum distribution from your IRA (if you have one) by April 1 following the year you reach the age 70 ½. For all subsequent years, including the year in which you were paid the first RMD by April 1, you must take the RMD by December 31.If you have multiple IRA accounts, you can choose to take all of your distributions from one account rather than from each. You should contact the firm that holds your IRA account soon to ensure that you complete the distribution in time and avoid the 50 percent penalty.
  8. Pay Your Advisor a Visit
    Bottom line: Year-end can be a very busy time, especially when you factor in holiday shopping, family visits, and social events. Be sure to meet with your financial advisor to take care of all these financial planning items as soon as possible to avoid missing any deadlines.For more information about financial planning, please reach out to our Curi Capital’s Wealth Management team at 984-202-2800.
Frances Cronlund, CIMA®, CExP™, CTFA, CFP®
Frances Cronlund is Curi Capital’s Senior Director of Wealth Planning, based in Raleigh, NC.
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