“There's no time like the present to take stock of your financial life.”
Business Insider’s recent article, “A financial adviser shares a 5-step checklist to complete before the end of 2016,” notes that many folks spend more time planning vacations than they do their finances or retirement. The beginning of the new year is an excellent time to take a comprehensive review of what you have—both assets and liabilities—to prepare for the year ahead and any financial milestones or challenges you may face. These can include things like marriage, a home purchase, adopting a child or retirement.
Here are some important financial steps to at the start of 2017.
- Take financial inventory.
Consider aggregating your accounts and identifying what you have, such as IRAs, bank accounts, and life insurance. You should take an inventory of your debt and determine how you will pay it off in 2017.
- Review your estate plan.
OK, it’s not that exciting, but it’s important. Don’t wait until next year, because tragedy can strike at any time. If you fail to plan properly, and something unfortunate happens, your family may be left unprepared. It's critical to have control over what will happen to everything that you leave behind.
- Update your beneficiary forms.
This is a task that should be reviewed periodically—especially if you've been married or divorced, had children or retired in recent years. A designated beneficiary on an insurance policy or an IRA has precedence over a will or a trust. As a result, it's important to make adjustments after major life changes.
- Make some smart tax moves.
You should know how the taxes work on your 401(k)s and IRAs, so take a look to be certain you're saving effectively. The maximum annual contribution to a 401(k) is $18,000 or $24,000 if you're over 50. Therefore, if you've got a holiday bonus, that’s the perfect reason to add to your retirement accounts.
You should also remember that you can gift as much as $14,000 per person annually to as many people as you'd like without a gift tax liability. In addition, with any tax planning for retirement, you might think about converting your retirement money through a Roth IRA conversion ladder. Money transferred from a traditional IRA to a Roth is tax- and penalty-free after paying taxes on the conversion.
- Evaluate your path to retirement.
Retirement planning is important at every stage of life, so be pro-active. If you create a plan, it can hold you accountable. It is important to speak with a qualified estate planning attorney. Don’t just “set it and forget it.” Stay on top of issues and continually monitor the situation.
If retirement is in the near future, or if you're planning to retire early, start to have discussions about identifying guaranteed income, social security, your pension options, and how to utilize any or all of them into your overall income plan, along with the tax consequences.