End of Year Financial Checklist


The end of the year is a traditional time of celebration, excitement, reflection and planning - not withstanding the hectic holiday shopping of course. However, the end of the year also holds another, lesser-known but more significant, importance - the optimal time of the year to complete year-end financial tasks. 
Managing your personal finances always begins with you. By not completing certain essential tasks, you risk making costly mistakes and placing your financial independence, control and security at risk. The benefits of completing these financial tasks typically include protecting and growing your investments, cutting your tax bill, jump starting your retirement savings, improving your credit rating and reducing your insurance costs.
Here are seven year-end financial tasks:
1. MINIMIZE CAPITAL GAINS: Capital gains taxes can significantly reduce total portfolio performance and increase your tax bill. As a result, harvest appropriate capital losses to offset against existing capital gains.
2. REBALANCE YOUR PORTFOLIO: Due to fluctuating market prices over the year, your portfolio and respective holdings may have changed. To ensure that your portfolio remains optimal - or aligned to achieve your goals and objectives - you may need to sell some investments and buy other investments with the proceeds.
3. MAXIMIZE RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS: Consider increasing contributions to your retirement account - 401(k), 403(b), IRA or other, if permitted. The compounding impact from increased contributions will become quite sizable over time. Take full advantage of employer matching.
4. ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY FUND: An emergency fund is used to protect against a loss of income as a result of layoff, disability or death. As a general rule, your emergency fund should amount to between three and six months of your average monthly expenses.
5. CONSIDER BUNCHING ITEMIZED DEDUCTIONS: If you are close to benefiting from itemizing your deductions, consider "bunching" them in alternating tax years. One year you itemize deductions - and benefit from the excess itemized deductions over the standard deduction - and the next tax year you take the standard deduction.
6. DRAFT OR MODIFY ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS: Having an estate plan (will, living will, trust, power of attorney, etc) is essential for avoiding probate, minimizing estate taxes and ensuring assets go to whom you designate.
7. MAKE TAX-EFFICIENT CHARITABLE GIFTS: Making gifts of highly appreciated assets, namely stocks, can be very beneficial by reducing your tax bill. In most cases, taxpayers benefit by obtaining both a charitable tax deduction and avoiding capital gains tax on the highly appreciated asset.
With the end of the year fast approaching, it is crucial that you address your personal finances and complete certain essential tasks, especially those with deadlines. Remember, managing your personal finances always begins with you.


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