“Too many people make the mistake of waiting until they have a big life change, such as a new child, to update a will and estate plan, says Paul Jarvis….”
Recently, I was asked by The Wall Street Journal what I see clients putting off and what steps people can take before year-end. Here are a few of my top tips (Read more tips by clicking on the link to the original story):
Focus on what matters: Elections, stock markets, bond markets, your neighbor’s preference to play the bagpipes at 7am (my neighbor does this) are things you have limited control over. However, remember those new year’s resolutions you made? It is not too late to act on them. Utilize this time of year to re-focus on what you can control such as:
- Saving more: rebuilding bank accounts after summer trips (6+ months of expenses in an emergency funds have helped many weather financial storms)
- Spending less: Evaluate your spending habits by looking reviewing at least one month’s bank statement to see if you have any bad habits (by eliminating Caribou and Sub Shop runs and bringing my own coffee and lunch, I saved over $5,000 in one year!)
- Taxes: review your paycheck for errors such as withholding too much or too little (Remember back a couple years when the Government enacted the “Making Work Pay” Stimulus package? Many married couples with both individuals working received more credit than they should which meant they owned money on that credit when they filed their taxes)
- Investment Diversification: review your current allocation to evaluate if your allocation needs additional diversification or rebalancing
- So many clients view the elections as the optimal time to “time” the market by making investment decisions that are, in many ways, unrelated to their financial goals. Timing the market based on speculation is a bad idea.
- Capital Gains and Loss Harvesting: Between now and the end of the year you have the opportunity to evaluate your losses in your accounts and utilize those losses to potentially offset any gains you realize which could help you further diversify your investment portfolios. I have provided a link to my blog that has that tool (side bar) and others
- Retirement Planning: You still have time to evaluate your retirement contribution levels and whether or not Roth options make sense. Many employers offer Roth 401k plans which are relatively new. Also, you still have time to consider converting your Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.
- Estate Planning: Even though we remind them, many of our clients delay estate planning until something spurs action like taking a family trip via plane (they worry about crashing and not having their financial affairs in order). This can include but is not limited to:
- Beneficiary designations
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Medical Power of Attorney
The information in this article is not intended to be tax and/or legal advice and should not be treated as such. You should consult with your tax advisor and/or attorney to discuss your personal situation before making any decisions.
Additionally, If you are looking for additional help, seek help from a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional that can look at your individual situation holistically.