A personal financial review may not be near the top of anyone’s favorite fall activities, but putting effort into one right now can help you understand exactly where you stand financially, and set you up for a prosperous and less stressful New Year. Here are five simple things you should work on before the ball drops in Times Square:
- Set your holiday gift budget limit
The holidays can be a stressful time for many of us who feel obligated to buy gifts for loved ones. A great way to avoid this stressor is to set your budget for gifts early on and start saving as soon as possible. Saving early in the fall can help you avoid the stress of putting all your gifts on credit and starting the New Year with a large credit card bill. If you’re finding yourself faced with a tight budget, you may need to review your current spending habits and pinpoint areas to cut back on in order to free up funds for gifts.
At Echo Wealth Management, we always advise our clients to factor “Gifts and Charitable Donations” into their annual expenses to reduce the occurrence of stress during gift giving seasons.
- Do a credit check
As a best practice you should pull your credit report every year. You're entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) by visiting this website. Reviewing this report on an annual basis can help you monitor any erroneous items negatively impacting your credit score. Doing this prior to year-end is especially valuable if you’re hoping to make any big purchases in the New Year (new car, home, etc). Additionally, if your report is accurate but your score needs a little TLC this is a great time to devise a plan to improve your score. Making payments on time and paying down debt can go a long way!
- Maximize your deductions for 2018
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your taxable income for 2018, now is a great time to review your options. The recent tax law changes reduced the number of available deductions in favor of a much larger standard deduction but a few key deductions are still available including mortgage interest, student loan interest, and charitable donations. Be sure to make any charitable gift donations prior to year-end in order to claim this deduction on your tax return. And of course, if you haven’t maximized contributions to a qualified retirement plan or Health Savings Account for the year, now is a great time to do so in order to claim the tax deduction! If you are age 50 and above, don’t forget to elect the catch-up contributions of $6,000 in your 401(k) to further reduce income taxes.
- Visit your doctor
A New Year means the reset button gets hit on your annual health insurance deductibles and out of pocket maximums. This means you should schedule any yearly exams or necessary appointments now to make the most of your benefits before they reset. You’ll also want to use up funds allocated to your Flexible Spending Account if you have one. Often, any cash not used by the end of the year disappears thanks to a “use it or lose it” policy for FSAs.
- Start thinking about your 2019 Resolutions NOW
Start thinking about your personal and financial goals now so you can establish what you want to achieve in 2019. Whether it’s purchasing a new vehicle, getting a promotion, or paying down your debt, it’s never too early to start planning for your future!