Send 2016 Out In Style With An End-of-the-Year Financial Checklist

December 13, 2016 : H&R Block Dollars & Sense

It happens every year. The holidays come into focus, inundating us with shopping, cooking and general celebratory requirements, and before you know it, January 1 arrives. So now is a good time to make any financial adjustments to your 2016 tax year before December 31.

Run through this end-of-the-year financial checklist and start making some smart financial moves that will make 2017 a year worth its weight in gold.

  1. Take a look at your year-to-date spending. If you’ve been tracking your spending, saving and investments all year, take a moment to see how you’ve progressed! If you aren’t meeting your goals like you hoped, see what you can do to fix that. If you don’t track your finances properly, it’s a great time to start.
  2. Create a budget for next year. Start with the expenses you know you’ll have and estimate what you don’t, using forecasting and goal-oriented measures to adjust budget allotments. Our tax calculator to can also estimate what you may owe at tax time, or how much you might see coming back to you in a refund.
  3. Revise your W-4. Depending on how the tax calculator projects your tax bill or refund, you may want to think about altering allowances on your W-4. (Claim fewer if you owe more than expected and less if your refund is large.)
  4. Donate to charity. December 31 is the deadline to make charitable contributions that are deducted from your 2016 tax return. If you haven’t been bitten with the holiday bug, maybe a tax incentive can get you in the spirit.
  5. Max out contributions to your retirement plan. It’s a smart move to put as much as you can in your retirement savings (especially if your employer matches), but contributions under certain plans—like a 401(k)—are only deductible if made during the same calendar year.
  6. Spend down FSA. If you put money in the Flexible Saving Account offered by your employer, chances are you have to use it before the start of the New Year. So schedule those appointments and buy that new pair of glasses—because if you don’t use it, you lose it.
  7. Get your credit reports for the year. Since you are entitled to a free copy of each of the three major credit reports every year, take advantage of it. The best strategy is to space them out over the course of a year, but if you haven’t done that then get them all at once and plan accordingly for the next year.
  8. Go digital with online banking. Just about every bank offers these services, which can help automate your bill payments and avoid late fees. The simplicity in scheduling deposits between accounts also makes budgeting easier.
  9. Check and rebalance your portfolio. Did you reach your investment goals for the year? If not, you may want to make some changes that reflect market behavior and any big life changes that happened over the course of the year.
  10. See a planner or tax professional. Knowing what items you want to check off your financial list and putting those changes in effect are two different things. See a professional who can guide you through it. But remember that this time of year is busy for everyone, tax professionals included. Schedule an appointment early.

With a little planning, you can save money and invest smarter in 2017. That’s the right way to ring in a new year.

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