Increase retirement account contributions: A new year sometimes means increasing retirement account contribution limits. For 2016, the 401(k) limit is $18,000. If you are already maxing out your employer sponsored plan, considering reviewing IRAs, taxable accounts, or some tax deferred annuities.
Begin tax document collection: Most of your tax forms will come to you by the end of February. Collect your tax forms, and any supporting documentation for deductible items, such as charitable contribution receipts, investment advisory expenses, etc.
Find additional deduction or adjustments to income: If you are working with your tax advisor, they will generally help you. If you are on your own, determine, among other things, eligibility for IRA and HSA contributions.
File your taxes if you haven’t already: April 18, 2016 is the tax-filing deadline this year. Take note of possible missed deduction or adjustments so you can use them to your advantage in the current tax year.
Create a master file: This file should contain an itemized list of your financial accounts. At least have the provider information, if nothing else. For your heirs’ sake, provide as much information as possible, such as account numbers, points of contact, and phone numbers. Most importantly, safe guard the list against theft but let your heirs know of its existence.
Understand what your investment philosophy should be: Address what your investment criteria are, asset allocation is, timeframe for rebalancing is, etc. Keep it simple. If you are working with an advisor, ask for their investment philosophy statement. Review your investments to make sure they are in line with your investment philosophy.
Check in: Review what you have completed in the previous six months, while putting in place a plan for the next six months. Confirm your budget is working appropriately, while also planning out the budget updates for Holiday shopping, travel, etc.
Update your beneficiaries: If beneficiaries are assigned to a 401(k), IRA, or HSA, your beneficiary designations supersede the will. Not everyone will make an update to beneficiaries after a life change, so make an effort once per year to review your beneficiaries.
Conduct a benefits review: Open enrollment is usually going to start next month. Begin reviewing your employer provided benefits to make sure they fit your need. Many people aren’t properly taking advantage of all the benefits they do have. Sit down with your significant other and review the offering. Ask yourself if you are leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of the full offering of benefits.
Begin year-end tax planning: October is a great month to review your tax situation for the year. Among other things, consider Roth conversions, tax-loss harvesting, charitable contributions, etc. Speak with your tax advisor to see if there are any actions you can take by year end.
Holiday Shopping begins: Black Friday and Cyber Monday have gotten out of control. Begin creating a shopping list/budget for the Holiday season. Many times you can get alerts from your favorite websites about upcoming deals. This is a great way to save an unnecessary trip to the overcrowded stores.
Reflect: Too often we forget to take stock of what we have done in the year. It is a great time to do so both personally and professionally. Since employer reviews and bonus reviews can come late in the year, take an inventory of things you accomplished through the year. Make your case for that big raise or year-end bonus.