At the year draws to a close, here are a few things to think about in between tree decorating, light untangling and latke frying:
Employer-Sponsored Retirement Accounts
In order to take a deduction for contributions to an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k) or a Simple IRA, you must make your contribution through payroll deduction by the end of the year. Your primary goal should be to save at least enough to earn any company match offered. Contribution limits for 2017 if you are under 50 are $12,500 for a Simple IRA and $18,000 for a 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b) plan. If you are over 50, the limits are $15,500 for the Simple and $24,000 for the 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b). (For more, see: 10 Money-Saving Year-End Tax Tips.)
Make your contributions (either of cash or donated goods) by the end of the year, and get a receipt from the charity.
You can contribute up to $14,000 per recipient per year ($28,000 if married and filing jointly). This includes contributing to your child’s 529 college savings plan. Note: Gifting is not tax deductible, but gifting in excess of limits could result in a very high gift tax.
Required Minimum Distributions
If you are older than 70 ½ years at the end of the year, you must take a distribution from your tax-deferred retirement savings. This is very important because the penalty for not taking your required minimum distribution (RMD) is very high - as much as 50% of the amount you should have taken.
RMD rules can also apply to inherited retirement assets even if you are younger than 70 ½. There is a small caveat to all of this, however. The year you turn 70 ½, you may be able to delay your distribution until the following year. But that would mean you would have to take two distributions that year (one for the prior year and one for the current year).
See the Doctor
Most medical and dental plans offer free annual or biannual wellness visits. Of course, nothing is free. You are paying for those appointments through monthly insurance premiums. Or you may have already maxed out your out-of-pocket health care costs for the year. In either case, take advantage and go to see your doctor and dentist for a checkup. (For more, see: Your Annual Financial Planning Checklist.)
Spend All Your FSA Dollars
Though they are not common these days, some people have flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to cover routine medical expenses such as prescriptions and doctor co-pays. Unlike health savings accounts, you must spend all the money you contribute to your FSA by the end of the year or you will forfeit the balance. If there’s still money in that account, get all your prescriptions refilled or get an extra pair of glasses.
Check Your Credit Report
You can get a free credit report from each of the major credit agencies once a year. You can do this any time of the year, but if you haven’t done so this year, now is a good time. AnnualCreditReport.com is a good place to start.
Talk to Your Financial Advisor
If you haven’t talked to your financial advisor in a year, get together or just catch up on the phone. It is important to touch base occasionally to check your strategy and plan, especially if you have had important life-changing events this past year or anticipate big changes in 2018. (For related reading, see: The Importance of Making an Annual Financial Plan.)