With Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, we’re now officially into the holiday season. And while I’m sure many of you are busy making your lists and checking them twice, December is also a good time to put a bow on the last 12 months of your finances and start planning ahead for next year.
Remember my recent blog about how much faster adults process time than kids do? Well trust me: between the shopping, the wrapping, the cooking, the eating, and the traveling, your holidays are going to fly by. The next thing you know it’s going to be April, and you know what that means – tax time!
We’re big on planning ahead at Keen Wealth. So over your holiday break, take a moment to go through my end of 2017 checklist. Tie up any loose ends, get some meetings on your calendar, and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running in 2018.
1. Top off your annual retirement account contributions.
You have until you file your 2017 taxes next April to hit the maximum yearly contributions to your IRA: $5500, or $6500 if you’re 50 or older. But 401(k) contributions are only deductible for the calendar year in which they’re made, up to $18,000 for 2017. If your employer provides you with a Christmas bonus and you don’t need it to pay down any debts or splurge a little on presents, you might consider applying that bonus directly towards maximizing a retirement account before the end of 2017. And if you’re a high-earner, you might want to think about maximizing your traditional IRA and converting the funds into a Roth IRA for a tax-free investment.
2. If you’re already retired, take your required minimum distributions (RMD).
RMD is one of those financial terms with which new retirees need to familiarize themselves. In the year following your 70 ½ birthday, you are required to withdraw a minimum annual amount from your IRA, 401(k) or other taxable retirement accounts. This first withdrawal (the RMD) must occur on or before April 1st, or face one of the heaviest tax penalties in the book: 50% of what you should have withdrawn. Your fiduciary advisor can help you through the IRS’s worksheet for determining your RMD, and help you time these withdrawals to keep your taxes and your spending plan in sync.
3. Donate to charity or give to loved ones.
You have until the end of 2017 to make charitable donations to the causes that matter to you if you want to deduct those donations next April. You’re also allowed to gift someone up to $14,000 ($28,000 if your spouse gives too), tax-free per annum.
If charitable giving is a new part of your financial plan, or if you just want to help after all the calamities we’ve seen this year, please make sure you know who’s really benefiting from your generosity. Even some of the best-known charities and non-profits have come under fire recently for misappropriating donations. And be especially wary of any online solicitations, like crowdfunding campaigns, from people you don’t know, and of course those “Nigerian Princes” who have been scamming people for as long as there’s been email.
4. Review your estate plan.
If you haven’t looked at your will, trust, end of life directives, power of attorney, or beneficiaries lately, do so before the end of 2017.
Do you have any new property or valuable possessions that you want to pass on to a loved one? Do you and your spouse both understand each other’s wishes should one of you become incapacitated? Does your legacy plan provide for the people and causes that are important to you? Have there been any changes to your family dynamics that might affect whom you want to settle your estate? Do your beneficiaries know where you have filed all of your important documents?
5. Schedule a meeting with your fiduciary advisor.
While end-of-year is a good time to review and reflect, our business at Keen Wealth includes helping clients through their checklist items all year long. From monitoring RMDs to maximizing investment strategies, no client situation is identical. So as we approach the end of 2017, we’re checking our lists twice.
Hopefully you are working with a fiduciary advisor who can help you navigate through your own personal situation. At Keen Wealth, keeping customized plans for retirement relevant and on course is a top priority. And even as we continue to engage with folks on a regular basis, we also encourage them to contact us as new changes, new goals or new challenges occur unexpectedly in the new year and beyond.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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