Now that the year is coming to a close, it's time to think about your financial task list. Check out my end-of-year financial checklist to help you get things squared away.
Welcome to December, my friends. I've been paying the ADHD tax this year, but I'm trying to get back on track. And part of that whole “back on track” thing is my end-of-year checklist. I blocked out two days at the end of November to bang out some financial tasks, and I'm blocking out one day in early December to finish.
If you're trying to figure out the best way to manage your end-of-year financial checklist, maybe my approach will help.
What's on my end-of-year financial checklist?
I usually divide my financial checklist into different parts, breaking down tasks so that they're manageable.
This is the perfect time to consider your insurance needs.
- Car insurance: I took the time to shop around a bit for a lower car insurance rate. I discovered that my current rate with my current provider is the lowest available. But it felt good to confirm it.
- Health insurance: Because I work for myself and have to create my own benefits package, I shop my state's exchange each year. Open enrollment runs from October 15 to December 15 each year. If you have insurance through a company, now is the time to review your plan and make sure it still fits your needs. I got lucky. This year, I found an HSA Bronze-level plan that will cost me $100 less per month than last year's plan.
- Other insurance: I reviewed my life insurance, renters, E&O, and long-term disability policies to double-check that they still meet my needs.
Extra tax-deductible contributions
No end-of-year financial checklist is complete without reference to extra contributions. As you probably know, it's a great time to review your various tax-deductible contributions to see if you have more room. I do this for my various accounts:
- SEP IRA
- 529 (Note: the 529 isn't tax-deductible at the federal level, but some states offer a state income tax deduction for contributions)
If you work for someone else, you might want to check your 401(k) contributions to see if you have more room. It might even be a good time to consider opening an IRA if you're not pleased with what's available with your 401(k).
For those who are eligible, opening an HSA can be a great move this time of year.
Pro tip: Now is also a good time to review your paycheck deductions and automatic transfers. If the IRS has increased contribution limits, you can update your withholdings for next year.
Technically, I do this throughout the year, as part of my effort to positively impact my community. If you aren't already regularly donating to charity, now is a great time to donate (if you can afford to). Also, consider setting up automatic donations. These monthly donations help charities smooth their cash flow and can ensure that you aren't trying to come up with big amounts at once.
Let's be honest. The investment review is rather cursory. I'm a confirmed indexer, so I have very few individual investments. I've got a smattering of cryptocurrency, some individual stocks, and other experiments, but most of my investments are in index products.
However, I still take the time to take these actions as part of my end-of-year financial checklist:
- Check my asset allocation to see that it's in line with my investment priorities and make necessary adjustments
- Review my other investments and decide whether any should be sold (and prepare to harvest the losses on my taxes)
- Consider whether my investment plan still meshes with the rest of my financial goals and plot out tweaks as needed
Gifts (including tips to service providers)
It's the end of the year, and that usually means gifts and holiday planning and entertaining. This is the time of year I put together a list of gifts I need to buy. As part of this process I:
- See if I have gift cards sitting around that I can use to make purchases, whether they're gifts or items I need to prepare holiday meals
- Check my cash back and rebate accounts for unused rewards and cash, including my credit card cashback, to use for purchases and to reduce the overall cost of holiday spending
- Take stock of my supplies and decide what I need to buy during post-Christmas sales (all of my wrapping paper, holiday cards, and decor are purchased at deep discounts in the week after Christmas)
- Get cash from the bank to make tips to my cleaning lady, nail tech, esthetician, and hairdresser (in the past, when I had home milk delivery, I'd include my milkman)
Finally, I catch up on various business items at the end of the year. If you own a business, here are some items to think about:
- Spend money on needed supplies or take advantage of travel sales for business trips in the coming year
- Evaluate contractors and determine which to keep and whether anyone needs a raise
- Bonuses for contractors and others
- List who will need W-2s or 1099s issued after the first of the year (I recently hired my son as a true employee instead of a contractor)
- Review benefits and determine whether they need adjustments
- Double-check tools and subscriptions. I recently found out two different tools I was using were increasing in price. I am canceling them and replacing them with less expensive, but just as good, alternatives.
- Look back at my business performance, including earnings, and plan for the coming year
- Outline business projects and priorities for the coming year
Creating your own end-of-year financial checklist
Your situation will differ, so you'll want to create your own financial checklist. But you might find mine helpful. And you might be surprised at how quickly you can get through it when you dedicate the time. I found that blocking off three days (one of which was a weekend day) is enough to get through everything. When combined with my (mostly) regular monthly and quarterly money reviews, the end-of-year planning goes smoother since I'm not trying to ALL the things at the last minute.