Take a reflective look at your financial life from the last 12 months. Maybe you didn’t accomplish every last item on your financial wish list. Still, it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the great things you did do in 2019, says Ellen Rogin, CFP®, CPA, and New York Times Bestselling Author of Picture Your Prosperity. It will ease the way for next year’s resolutions, she adds, noting that beating yourself up over what you didn’t do won’t help anyone. Plus, the year isn’t quite over yet. You still have a month to make out some ground. Here are the steps to take.
Max out your 401(k) this year, says Rogin. If you are under 50 years old, your limit is $19,000 and for those older, your limit is $25,000. If you can’t quite hit that max, “do as much as you can” before the year is over, she recommends. Talk to your benefits department pronto about how to make that happen.
Use up the money in your flex spending accounts. These accounts take money out of your paycheck pre-tax (score!) which can then be used to fund dependent care and health care, Rogin says. If you’ve got a balance make a plan to use it up by year-end (or by your company’s spring deadline if it gives you a grace period.) Meaning: Schedule those doctor’s visits you’ve been putting off. Buy some new glasses. Or take a spin through fsastore.com where every purchase qualifies.
Plan your charitable giving. Giving back has traditionally ramped up at the end of the year — for both tax reasons and because that’s when outreach is fast and furious. In the wake of the new tax law — which dramatically reduced the number of people taking itemized deductions — giving by individuals fell by 1.1% according to Giving USA. One way to continue to give generously and reap the rewards on your tax returns is to employ a strategy the pros call “bunching” or “clumping.” Lump your charitable donations and other deductions into, say, every other or every third year. Itemize in those years and don’t in the off years. And, if you want to give big but aren’t sure where you want the money to go, consider putting it in a donor advised fund, says Rogin. You get the tax deduction now, but do not have to commit to whom you’re donating quite yet.
Set your 2020 goals. Take stock of what you did and did not accomplish in 2019 to set your business and personal goals for next year, says Rogin. Seeing the bigger picture will help you to understand why the small steps will make a difference.
With Rebecca Cohen