The Christmas season is an excellent time of the year to review your financial planning strategy. Our finances are top of mind as most of us are monitoring our spending as the holiday and new year approaches. We can look back over the year, draw from our wins and losses, and get an idea of where we need to make changes. Here is a 12 days of Christmas financial planning checklist to keep you off Santa’s naughty list:
1. On the 1st day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Where do you stand with your debt?
Debt is something nearly all of us can relate to. The average American household debt in 2023 is $101,915. What makes up your debt, and are you working to pay it down? The compilation of debts held by the average consumer includes:
- Home mortgages
- Credit card debt
- Personal loans
- Student loans
- Home equity lines of credit (HELOC)
- Auto loans
- Medical debt
2. On the 2nd day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Is your credit where you want it to be?
There are three primary credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It is important to review your credit report and ensure nothing is on it that shouldn’t be. For example, if you pull up your credit score on Experian (which is free) and see something questionable, like an old phone bill sent to collections that you already closed, you may file a dispute. If it is a legitimate argument the credit bureau will investigate.
3. On the 3rd day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Have you created an estate plan? If so, have you reviewed it yet this year?
According to LegalZoom, 56% of Americans believe that estate planning is important, but only 33% of adults in the U.S. have documented their end-of-life plans, 75.12% of those being wills. Ensure you understand what it is you want with your estate planning goals, from disbursement to beneficiaries, tax benefits, philanthropic pursuits, and avoiding probate if possible. Having a well-ironed-out estate plan may alleviate some of the stress your heirs may experience when managing your affairs after you are gone and seeing to it that your wishes are considered.
4. On the 4th day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Have you started that emergency fund you have been talking about?
In life, unexpected events occur. Are you ready for such a moment? Did you know that 49% of Americans have less or no savings built up from a year ago? If you don’t yet have one, starting an emergency fund can be beneficial; money accumulates over time faster than you might think. Review your emergency fund if you have one, or consider putting money away for that rainy day, even if it is minimal initially.
5. On the 5th day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Have you reviewed your beneficiaries?
As the years pass, your family structure may have changed. The beneficiaries you have on your accounts may not be the ones you still want and if you should die, regardless of what you have in your will, the listed beneficiaries on those retirement accounts will take precedence. It is essential that you regularly review your beneficiaries.
6. On the 6th day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Have you considered a Roth IRA conversion?
Converting assets into a Roth IRA may be a beneficial retirement strategy for you if you think you may be in a higher tax bracket after you retire. There is no tax benefit upfront; however, earnings grow tax-free, and you won’t be taxed when it is time to withdraw the assets. By doing so, you are better equipped to personalize your tax planning when you retire, regardless of how the world has changed. You also will not have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) like you do other retirement accounts.
7. On the 7th day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Have you maximized all available tax breaks?
Maximizing your tax breaks can be complex, including itemizing your deductions, claiming tax credits, making a required minimum distribution (if you are of age), contributing to your health savings account, and reviewing your filing status. Consult your financial professional to learn more about how your decisions could impact your financial goals.
8. On the 8th day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Have you reviewed your budget?
Living below your means is one of the keys to preserving financial wealth and growing it. It is easy to spend money frivolously; however, creating an up-to-date budget can help you manage your spending to ensure it is less than the amount of money you bring in. Consider that 76% of U.S. adults making under $50,000 live paycheck to paycheck. If you are one of them, it may be time to reevaluate your spending habits.
9. On the 9th day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Have you reviewed your portfolio and rebalanced it if necessary?
Rebalancing your portfolio involves modifying your portfolio’s composition to align with your risk tolerance and financial goals. Remember not to overlook the taxes you may incur from profitable investment sales. A financial professional can help you understand the impact of capital gains on your finances.
10. On the 10th day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Have you harvested any tax losses?
If you have a realized loss, you can offset capital gains up to $3,000 in ordinary income to lower current federal taxes. Tax-loss harvesting defers tax payments, but it doesn’t excuse them. If there are no capital gains to offset in the year capital loss was harvested, you can carry over the amount to offset future gains or income. The calculations and complexities of this potential tax benefit can be confusing so consider seeking a financial professional for assistance.
11. On the 11th day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Review and modify your goals
Reviewing and modifying your financial goals is critical because it gives you both a foundation to work with and a direction to take. Since life happens and the market constantly evolves, staying current on your goals can help you maintain alignment with your financial strategy and potentially avoid pitfalls.
12. On the 12th day of Christmas, my financial professional said to me… Have you scheduled your end-of-year meeting yet with me?
Working through your Financial Planning Checklist alone can be complicated, therefore getting help from a financial professional can benefit you in potentially preserving and growing your wealth and hopefully dodging any obstacles that may arise.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Traditional IRA account owners should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income taxation.
Rebalancing a portfolio may cause investors to incur tax liabilities and/or transaction costs and does not assure a profit or protect against a loss.
The tax-loss harvesting and other tax strategies discussed should not be interpreted as tax advice and there is no representation that such strategies will result in any particular tax consequence. Clients should consult with their personal tax advisors regarding the tax consequences of investing.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.
All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, LPL Financial makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.
This article was prepared by LPL Marketing Solutions
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