4 tips for year end planning

It is hard to believe, but 2015 is coming to a close.  With the holidays just around the corner, this is a great time to take a moment and make sure that you and your family are planning your financial life for 2015.  Here are 4 tips to help you do so.

Use it, don’t lose it!

If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) at work, take a moment to see what your balance is and make sure you use the funds before year end.  As you know, if you don’t use the funds before year end, you lose them.

So instead of throwing away money, schedule that dentist appointment or get that new pair glasses.  If you want a fashionable pair glasses and you want to feel good about your purchase, check out Warby Parker.  At Warby Parker, for every pair of glasses you buy, a pair is given to someone in need.

Maximize savings in your employer retirement plan

Do you know how much you are currently saving in your 401k or 403b?  At a minimum, you want to save enough to get the full match from your employer, if one is offered.  If you aren’t doing this, you are literally leaving money on the table.  Go do it now!

If you are already contributing to your 401k, see if you can increase your contribution.  Just make sure that increasing your retirement savings won’t stifle your cash flow and cause you to increase your debt.

For 2015 you can contribute up to $18,000, and a $6,000 catch-up for those over 50.  Not only will pre-tax contributions increase your retirement savings, they will also decrease your taxable income for 2015.

Give to charity

The end of the year is a great time to consider giving to charities.  In addition to helping people in need who may be less fortunate than you, giving to charity can also be good for your pocketbook since you can receive a tax deduction for giving.

If you really want to maximize your tax deduction, consider donating stock with a low cost basis from taxable accounts rather than just writing a check.  If it sounds difficult, don’t worry, Fidelity Charitable offers a donor advised fund that makes this type of transaction painless.

Consider a Roth IRA

If you have excess savings and want to invest for the long term, consider funding Roth IRAs for you and your spouse.  Roth IRAs allow each of you to invest funds post-tax up to $5,500 a year with a $1,000 catch up if you are over 50.

The funds get to grow tax free and as long as you follow a few rules you won’t have to pay taxes when you withdraw the funds in retirement.   An additional benefit of Roth IRAs is that they are much more flexible than pre-tax retirement accounts.

For instance, you can withdraw your post-tax contributions if you find yourself in a pinch whereas you would have to pay tax penalties for withdrawing funds from a traditional IRA.  Hopefully you have an emergency fund so you don’t have to rely on the Roth IRA for quick cash, but it is still nice to know you have the option if absolutely necessary.

In addition to the tips above, there are a number of other tips and strategies you can employ to help maximize your financial life.  If you don’t have the time or expertise to manage these year end tax moves on your own, you should seriously consider hiring a financial planner.  A great place to start your search is the XY Planning Network or LetsMakeAPlan.org.  You can also set up a free consultation with me here.