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Getting Your Finances Ready for Year-End

On the STA Money Hour, daily at 12pm on 950AM KPRC in Houston, we have talked several times about how to better plan for your future.  Towards year-end, it is a great time to get organized to start next year on the right foot with the right plan!  Below, I have listed some steps that you can take to get your finances ready by year-end.

Getting Started/Budgeting

  1. Start to get your budget under control
    1. Review Credit Card Statements and/or Bank/Debit Card Spending
    2. Start using Quicken or Mint.com to track expenses
  2. Start giving yourself a weekly “cash budget” vs. going to ATMs (and stop using non-free ATMs)
  3. Determine Strategy to pay down debt (and work into budget) – Order
    1. High Interest non-deductible
    2. High Interest deductible
    3. Lower interest
    4. Note: Feel good about yourself…find a way to pay off lowest balances first and DON’T CHARGE WHAT YOU CAN’T PAYOFF GOING FORWARD!
  4. Review your FICO Score – see if you can get it improved (myfico.com or other services)
  5. Plan for discretionary spending items like vacations and Christmas spending and work into budget NOW vs. at time of event.
  6. Plan to save for longer term goals like new house or vacation house
  7. Consider refinancing your house if not done already (keep eye on interest rates – up almost 0.50% in last several weeks).
  8. Look at updating your W4 if you are getting to big a refund or had a surprise tax owed.
  9. Review the credit cards you are using to consider:
    1. Lower interest rates if you carry a balance (see FICO comment as well)
    2. The Rewards offered – based on usage, more rewards/miles?
    3. 0% Interest on balance transfers – but track and be careful!

Retirement/Investment:

  1. In your budgeting, don’t forget to determine what you can put into employer plan:
    1. At least do match
    2. If not maxing, increase by 1%-2% and work into budget
  2. Medicare (and ObamaCare) Open Enrollment – are you in the right plan for your needs (healthcare utilization, prescription drugs, change in family situation)
  3. Employer Open Enrollment for Benefits – Have you picked the right plans?
    1. Enough Life Insurance
    2. 401k investments and deferral
    3. Does HSA Plan make sense?
  4. Review Your Portfolio – Has it performed to your goal “Hurdle Rate” and benchmark (not necessarily S&P 500). Given outlook are you properly allocated to stocks, bonds, cash, etc?
  5. Determine, if available Roth vs. Traditional IRA/401k (lower the tax bracket, more Roth makes sense).
  6. If you are in retirement and/or low income year consider a Roth Conversion. This would need to be done by December 31st (if wrong can always “do over” re-characterize).
  7. Social Security Maximization Strategies (as you approach 62, FRA and age 70) – maxing with spousal and/or survivor’s benefits.
  8. Meet with a financial planner to see where you are in terms of your retirement (are you on track) – meet with a fiduciary (not just product pusher), fee-based, CFP, CPA/PFS, etc.
    1. On Track – Change savings, Hurdle Rate, Goals
    2. Pension/Social Security Maximization
    3. Risk Management
    4. Retirement Budget
    5. Optimized Tax Distribution Plan in Retirement (like STA’s R.I.T.E Plan™)

College:

  1. Start college savings plan
    1. UTMA, 529 Plan, Pre-Paid college plans – START EARLY
  2. Review and assure year-end 529 Plan distributions (match expenses to distributions)
  3. Review available Tax Credits/Deductions (many have income limitations)
    1. Student Loan interest
    2. American Opportunity Credit
    3. Lifetime Learning Credit
    4. https://www.irs.gov/individuals/education-credits-questions-and-answers
  4. Research available grants and/or other financial aid.

Other Planning – Tax, Estate and Risk Management:

  1. Review your Estate Plan and get a Will done – best if with an attorney, but if you can’t afford an attorney right now, consider online services like LegalZoom (it is better than nothing).
  2. Sit with your insurance agent:
    1. Do you have enough life insurance (when considering work)?
    2. Have you considered or do you have disability and long-term care Insurance?
    3. Are there in your property-casualty coverages (car, home, umbrella, professional, etc.)?
  3. Review your 2015 Tax Return and Meet with Tax Team:
    1. Review these Year-End Tax Basics.
    2. Consider year-end Charitable Planning – if needed and desired consider Donor Advised Fund (especially if you want to give a lot for tax planning and have not identified charities).
    3. Review your portfolio’s tax situation and consider Year-end Tax Loss Harvesting and “Tax Placement” changes between your retirement and taxable accounts.

 


Important Disclosure

The information herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but we do not guarantee its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  STA Wealth Management, LLC), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this presentation will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this presentation serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from STA Wealth Management, LLC. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  STA Wealth Management, LLC is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of this article should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the STA Wealth Management, LLC’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request.  ALL INFORMATION PROVIDED HEREIN IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY – USE ONLY AT YOUR OWN RISK AND PERIL.

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