The start of the year is hectic; we are juggling parties, holiday shopping, time with family and friends. The last thing we want to do is think about money.
But, while it’s tempting to put off financial decisions until the New Year, you might miss the chance to save extra money. An end-of-year checklist gives you the opportunity to make changes and save some serious dough before the clock strikes midnight on December 31.
Here is a year-end financial planning checklist. Use these last few weeks to get your finances organised and under control – a great way to close out 2014.
1. Look at your spending
Ideally, you’ve tracked your spending all year. What were your spending patterns? Did you go over or under in a certain category? What did you actually spend versus what you budgeted for. Do you need to change your expectations? Review your financial goals and consider whether they’ll work for you in the coming year and make the necessary adjustments.
If you paid off a loan, look to redirect that money into paying off another debt or adding it to savings or superannuation. Don’t let the money get eaten up by miscellaneous expenses.
If you don’t have a budget, start one.
2. Get your credit cards in check
Check your balances and interest rates. Call for a rate reduction if you think you’re paying too much in interest. Make a large payment if you have extra cash in the bank. If you can’t pay down a chunk of the debt you accumulated this year, create a debt repayment plan that will get it down next year.
3. Make an extra mortgage payment
Making just one extra mortgage payment each year can cut your loan down by years, saving you thousands in interest.
4. Contribute to a retirement account
If you haven’t already, make a contribution to your superannuation. Australians aged 50 or older can make up to $A35,000 in voluntary contributions at a lower tax rate if made through salary sacrifice.
5. Review insurance plans
Look over your health, life, homeowners, renters and car insurance plans. Do you need to adjust your coverage, premiums or add any dependents?
Did you get married, have a baby or buy a house? Do you have any changes coming in 2015 that you need to plan for?
6. Automate everything
The more you can automate, the easier your finances will be in 2015. Automating helps you pay your bills on time and maintain a regular savings plan. This is also a good time to cancel any automatic subscriptions you aren’t using: video and music streaming, magazines, premium subscriptions, etc.
7. Rebalance your portfolio
Recent stock market fluctuations may have left you unbalanced. Make sure you aren’t too heavily weighted toward one asset class. This will help you remain on track to reach your retirement goals by rebalancing to match your target allocations.
If you have losses in any taxable account holdings, you might want to consider tax-loss harvesting to offset any gains or ordinary income. You can also consider tax-gain harvesting to reduce longer-term capital gains tax rates. If all this sounds overwhelming, talk to your accountant or a certified financial planner.
8. Make a tax-deductible charitable contribution
If are going to itemise deductions on your tax return, consider making a charitable contribution to a cause you believe in. The donation must be made to a qualifying organisation and the tax benefit only saves you a fraction of what you donate, but you’ll be supporting a good cause.