We are now in the final three months of the decade. Every year we like to present a list of year-end tasks everyone should cross off their checklist. This time of year presents the perfect opportunity to review and possibly adjust your financial planning strategies. You should update your accounts and check in on where you stand with many of the goals you set at the beginning of the year, or even prior to that.
Check on the status of your emergency fund. Did you need to dip into it at all this year? Have your necessary expenses changed? The general rule of thumb for emergency funds is to have 3 months of necessary expenses if you are a dual income household and 6 months to a year if you are a single income household.
Max out your retirement accounts. The 2019 contribution limit is $19,000 for 401(k) & 403(b) Plans and $6,000 for IRAs. If you are over age 50, catch up contributions may be available as well.
Use the remaining money in your Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). If you still have money set aside in a flexible spending account for healthcare or dependent care expenses, it is important to try and use those funds before the end of the year or risk forfeiting the money.
Make contributions into your children’s 529 accounts. College costs continue to rise, and it is important to start saving early if you hope to reach your college funding goals. Additionally, some states offer a state income tax deduction if you are a resident of that state and contribute to their 529 plan. In some cases, the tax savings can be substantial.
Designate those individuals to whom you wish to gift assets. The annual gift tax exclusion is $15,000 for 2019 ($30,000 for married couples). You can gift this amount to any number of individuals without having to pay gift tax or have it count against your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption.
Make charitable donations. Giving to charity can be a very powerful tax-savings tool. Check and see if you have any appreciated investment assets that you could gift instead of cash. This way you avoid paying capital gains tax on those investments, and you may get to claim a deduction for the full value of the donated asset. Be aware, however, that under the new tax law, you may need to donate a substantial amount of assets to be eligible to claim a charitable deduction on your tax return.
Harvest investment losses. Do you own stocks and other marketable securities outside of your retirement accounts that have lost money? If so, consider selling those investments to lower your 2019 tax bill. This strategy allows you to deduct the resulting capital losses against this year’s capital gains. If your losses exceed your gains, you will have a net capital loss. You can deduct up to $3,000 of net capital loss (or $1,500 if you are married and file separately) against ordinary income, including your salary, self-employment income, and interest income.
Update Beneficiaries. If there has been a major change in your personal life, such as a recent marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a new child, or a death in the family, you may need to revise the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.
These are just a handful of financial issues to consider as we approach year end. Your financial and legal advisors can run through a more comprehensive checklist of planning options based on your personal circumstances.
Jeff Witz, CFP® welcomes readers’ questions. He can be reached at 800-883-8555 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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MEDIQUS Asset Advisors, Inc. does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.